LGBTQI+ youth groups in Northern Ireland are facing devastating cuts as the impact of a lack of government here, coupled with everything else that is going on in the UK, starts to bite.
Due to the announcement of severe cuts by the Education Authority in Northern Ireland, a number of LGBTQI+ youth groups are facing the possibility of having to close and it’s hard not to wonder if this isn’t an intentional consequence of this Tory government, facilitated by their right-wing DUP chums.
“Unfortunately, it has become quite clear that it is no longer the intention of the Education Authority to fulfil their statutory obligations to fund specific support to LGBTQI+ young people in N. Ireland,” a letter by Cara Friend, who have provided support and services for the community since the 70s, said in a letter to the Education Authority.
“This represents a disastrous future for LGBTQI+ young people and a monumental step backwards.”
It is, of course, easy to blame the DUP here first and foremost for these required cuts and that is a good shout.
They are, after all, the reason Northern Ireland hasn’t had a functioning government since the start of February 2022 as they continue their tantrum against the NI Protocol, which is the inevitable result of the Brexit they campaigned for. They also aren’t best pleased that Sinn Fein were voted in as the largest party in the last election but want you to believe that’s not related.
The DUP despise the Queer community and have devoted a large chunk of their political existence to blocking equality, including a ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy‘ campaign that ran from 1977 until homosexuality was finally decriminalised here in 1982. They also abused ‘petitions of concern’ to block marriage equality in NI for a number of years. Some borders in the Irish Sea they’re OK with.
Still, the cut in funding is also the Tory way.
Tax breaks to the very wealthiest have to be funded, and if they have to take that money from children, well, that’s just life, innit? Queer kids are just the rainbow-coloured cherry on top.
Northern Ireland already spends less on education per pupil than any other part of the UK. It is a place where it has been shown in study after study that a lack of education plays a role in leading young people, overwhelmingly boys, into the arms of paramilitary organisations that are still very much a part of life in the country, despite the wishes of the majority that they weren’t.
Protestant communities, which are much more right-wing aligned, have been shown to be particularly vulnerable to this ignorance pipeline and the DUP seem happy with that. They have always been much more at home fighting over symbols than putting in the work needed to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the people they continue to scare into voting for them. Keeping people afraid is always easier than keeping people warm, fed, and adequately educated.
In total, the EA will have to find £100m in cuts to its budget and, as usual, it is the most vulnerable who it will be taken from. Special education needs will also take a hit, as will services for other minorities.
“Our entire regional youth work staff team is funded under LGBTQI+-specific funding from Education Authority NI,” the letter continued.
“We have to regrettably move to close all regional services supporting LGBTQI+ young people and groups across N. Ireland.”
Few here outside of the Queer community will notice, or care. LGBTQI+ issues are so far down the priority list for almost every politician in Northern Ireland, it’s doubtful they ever even see it.
This place is ripe for continued Tory destruction, and they don’t even have to stand in an election in Northern Ireland to enjoy that power.