Unionist’s “Irish fixation” let Ruane off the hook – Alliance

East Belfast Alliance Assembly Member Naomi Long has said that unionist MLAs “unhealthy fixation” with the speaking of Irish in the chamber effectively let Education Minister Caitríona Ruane off the hook today over provision of paramedical therapy for children with special needs during the current industrial action by Classroom Assistants.

Naomi Long said, “Today I put down a Private Notice Question for the Education Minister, asking what alternative provision had been made for children who receive specialist paramedical therapy, such as physiotherapy, at school to continue to receive such services whilst schools are closed. It was a genuine enquiry seeking an answer to an issue which is causing real concern for many parents whose children are not only missing out on education but also such therapy during the current industrial action.

“During the Minister’s answer there were a number of attempted points of order raised in relation to her use of the Irish language. Then the Committee Chair, Sammy Wilson, used his right to a supplementary to again attack the Minister on the priority she is giving to Irish Language education. The result was that time and attention was deflected from the fact that the Minister failed to provide evidence that any alternative provision or arrangements have been put in place to deal with an eventuality which could have been foreseen some time ago.

“Members will have the opportunity tomorrow to debate the issue of the use of Irish in the chamber. Today should have been about the affected children, and the constant disruption to the Minister’s answer and the deflection into a rerun of the Irish language debate did those children no justice at all.

“Unionist members need to put this unhealthy fixation with the Irish Language to one side and focus less on the language the Minister speaks and more on the substance of her answer if they are to have any hope of effectively holding the Minister to account.”


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