Fury over threat to Irish language summer camp

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Postal delay creates funding problems for city community group


FERVENT community efforts are underway to save a children's Irish language summer camp from cancellation, amid claims a postal issue may have resulted in a crucial funding application deadline being missed.

Upset and disappointed parents have established an online petition - which has attracted nearly 1,000 signatures within days - following news that Campa Mhacha, an event that has been running since 2006 and is attended by upwards of 80 children, may be scrapped or scaled back this year.

Organised by city-based community group, Cairde Teo - which was recently presented with a special award by Irish President Michael D. Higgins - said it may now be forced to rethink its plans after a funding application to an Irish language body was received seven days late after it was posted first class.

The rejected application now means a shortfall of £1,750, which the group had planned to use to provide helpers and teachers at the summer camp.

Now with the event in jeopardy, Cairde Teo's Irish language development officer, Seán Ó Maoilsté, is urging the Irish language body to reconsider its position in light of the postal issue.

"We're hoping that the petition, which was set up by a number parents and Irish medium students and has already been signed by almost 1,000 people, will persuade the Irish language body that we have a genuine case for the application to be assessed," he told the Ulster Gazette.

"The camp attracts around 80 children from Irish medium primary schools who get the opportunity to engage with each other in a social environment."

As well as the letter arriving late, Seán also claimed that he had been informed that the envelope had been allegedly tampered with.

"The address was written in Irish, with the post code and building number on it and I was told that it had been scribbled out and the address written in English," he said.

"It shouldn't have happened; the post code and building number was on it. This is the first time something like this has happened to us. We send letters in the post frequently, with addresses written in Irish that go north and south and there's never been a problem."

He stressed, however, that he hoped something could be done to ensure that the camp will go head as planned. "We're working on a 'Plan B', which would mean perhaps only three days, with some trips planned.

"But without the helpers, it would mean a lot fewer children being able to attend," he revealed, adding that the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance had also been in contact to offer assistance.

Meanwhile, Royal Mail confirmed that they are now investigating the matter, and in a statement a company spokesperson said the organisation recognises the "cultural importance of the Irish and Ulster Scots languages".

"Royal Mail handles Irish language items on a daily basis and the overwhelming majority of these are delivered without any difficulty. This is true as long as the house or premises number and postcode appear correctly on mail items. On some occasions mail could be marked as we translate the location of the address," they explained.

"Unfortunately first class letters are not fully trackable through our systems and therefore it can be difficult to pinpoint if there has been a problem with this letter's delivery. This is why we always recommend that customers wishing to send items of value or importance should use Royal Mail's Special Delivery Guaranteed Service."

They continued, "Royal Mail fully recognises the cultural importance of the Irish and Ulster Scots languages, We are  committed to fulfilling its obligations and responsibilities, as set out in current national and European agreements. 

"Royal Mail also recognises the need to balance the requirements of our customers for an efficient value-for-money service, with the need to acknowledge our responsibilities as a major organisation operating in a society with diverse cultures. This has always been and remains our approach."


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