KRW LAW LLP WELCOME DECISION TO REVERSE LÍOFA BURSARY SCHEME WITHDRAWAL
The Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, has re-instated the Líofa Irish language bursary scheme. The scheme provided around £50,000 worth of bursaries to allow 100 persons to attend summer courses in the Donegal Gaeltacht. The decision was communicated in correspondence sent to a number of colleges on 23rd December 2016.
On 6th January 2017, in accordance with the pre action protocol for judicial review, KRW Law sent a letter before action to the Minister for Communities drawing to his attention the unlawfulness of his decision. In our letter before action, KRW Law asserted that the Minister’s decision was unlawful for the following five reasons:
- First, it was in breach of our client’s legitimate expectation that the Minister would continue to fund the Líofabursary scheme;
- Second, the decision was procedurally flawed. Given the wider importance of the bursary scheme and the commitments set out above, fairness required the Minister to consult on this decision prior to taking it;
- Third, the decision was contrary to the Minister’s duty, under s.75 Northern Ireland Act 1998, to have due regard to “the need to promote equality of opportunity … between persons of different religious belief”. No equality screening document has been published by the Minister, in breach not only of s.75, but also of his Department’s statutory equality scheme;
- Fourth, the decision was discriminatory on the grounds of religion and/or political opinion;
- Fifth, the decision was irrational, in that it failed to have regard to obviously material considerations and/or was based on improper considerations, such as an apparent hostility to the Irish language.
Within a week of this legal action, the Minister reversed his decision.
Speaking after the decision to re-instate the scheme, Niall Murphy, partner at KRW Law said:
“We were privileged to receive the instructions of a mature student whose interest in the Irish language was inspired by a radio interview with Linda Ervine and the event of Irish classes being convened at the East Belfast Mission
“We are grateful to the assistance afforded to us by An Dream Dearg, Conradh na Gaeilge, the Committee for the Administration of Justice and also the former Minister for Culture Arts and Leisure.”