The Green Party has called on the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to step in and offset the losses Gaeltacht communities will face as summer courses are cancelled.
The influx of visitors to colleges in Gaeltacht regions over the summer months, as well as student teachers who also spend several weeks of the year in these communities, is worth around €50 million to the Gaeltacht economy. While no decision has been taken by Government to shut down summer courses, over 20 coláistí samhradh have already cancelled their programmes for the school holidays and reports of an imminent cancellation have circulated on broadcast media.
“Gaeltacht areas are among the most deprived in the country, and many rely on the income from this annual influx of students and teachers. Many households count on this money to make ends meet, and without it these already marginalised areas run the risk of falling further behind.”
The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht did not respond to queries asking whether supports will be allocated to colleges affected by the current Covid-19 public health emergency. Coláiste Lurgan last week announced that all three-week summer courses were to be cancelled, and that students could seek a refund or transfer their deposits to 2021 courses or online activities.
Cllr Kavanagh said that while the summer colleges must be supported to offer alternative arrangements for students, the communities dependent on these courses will require more direct support.
“Gaeltacht areas are underfunded compared even to the most deprived areas of rural Ireland. Without the annual income from summer colleges, the mná tí and their families, the local shops and businesses, and the wider Gaeltacht communities will suffer. It’s up to Government to step up and show that the Gaeltacht, the heart of the Irish language, will be protected.”
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