HARTE COYLE COLLINS SOLICITORS & ADVOCATES
AISLING GHÉAR IRISH LANGUAGE THEATRE COMPANY, BELFAST CHALLENGES WITHDRAWAL OF FUNDING BY NORTHERN IRELAND ARTS COUNCIL
26TH MAY 2022
The only Irish language theatre company in the North Aisling Ghéar, based at Cultúrlann Belfast, has today challenged a decision by the Arts Council Northern Ireland to withdraw its annual funding. The theatre group is challenging the withdrawal of the funding by the Arts Council alleging that it is unfair and irrational. The annual funding from the Arts Council covers the core operational and innovation costs of the theatre group which will be unable to continue without the statutory support.
Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich’s resident theatre group, Aisling Ghéar, sought legal advice to assist in its attempt to overturn a decision that has seen it denied annual funding upon which it depends to survive. The decision by the Arts Council to withdraw the funding comes at a time when all theatre groups are recovering from the adverse impact of the Covid pandemic and against the potential introduction of an Irish Language Act through primary legislation.
Founded in 1997, the trailblazing outfit has received annual funding from the Arts Council for over a decade, providing an invaluable artistic outlet for the Irish language community. However, a raft of administrative technicalities and Arts Council stipulations, without adequate allowances for the pandemic, could see the company close for good after losing out on funding.
The news comes just days before the Irish language community is forced to march across Northern Ireland for long-promised language legislation. With an eye to Saturday’s Lá Dearg march, Aisling Ghéar Artistic Director, Bríd Ó Gallchóir, stressed the need for an Irish Language Act.
“The central point here is that we are the most damning example of what happens when there is not statutory protection for a minority language community,” she said.
“A state body can simply cut that community’s access to theatre, the arts, culture and educational advantages – all through one company which has continued to survive and produce on ever-dwindling supplies of money. The closure of Aisling Ghéar could see Gaelgeoirí lose out on the opportunity to experience the theatre in their own language.
We’re the only ones who can do it, we’re the only ones who qualify to do it, and it means that we’re the only ones who bring a service to a lot of organisations,”
I have taught drama in Coláiste Feirste, I’ve produced radio plays with volunteer broadcasters in Raidió Fáilte, we have performed bilingual sketches in Turas with Linda Ervine’s classes. We have produced work about people like Robert McAdam to bring to the Protestant community and we have produced work about Alice Milligan, again, to bring stories of members of the Protestant community who are supportive of the Irish language and of Irish culture. We play multifarious roles – not to mention the fact that we produce the pantomime which all the Gaelscoileanna attend – that will now not be available for those children.”
Patricia Coyle, solicitor, acting on behalf of the theatre group said today;
“We welcome the opportunity to assist this unique Irish language theatre group in asking the Arts Council to review and reconsider their decision to withdraw funding at this particularly critical time for the Irish language. Aisling Ghéar has prepared an innovative programme which will promote Irish language in the coming year. The deprivation of state funding at this time would be a devasting blow not just to the theatre group but to the Irish language community. We have lodged an appeal today addressing what we say are the flaws in the decision-making process. We await the Arts Council response.”