Eamon Ó Cuív: grants

In a scathing review of the performance of Eamon Ó Cuív's Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Department of Finance officials said that there was "no evidence" that over €70m worth of Gael­tacht improvement grants have "aided in the preservation of the Irish language".

In correspondence between finance minister Brian Lenihan's department and Colm McCarthy's An Bord Snip Nua seen by the Sunday Tribune, Finance suggested to McCarthy that the many Irish-language and rural-support grants should be abolished because they were simply not working.

Ó Cuív's department was the only one McCarthy recommended be abolished, leaving the Galway TD vulnerable in a possible cabinet reshuffle.

It is clear from Finance's comments to McCarthy that the mandarins in Merrion Street feel that the recession has given them the chance to rein in Ó Cuív's largesse.

On the €152m earmarked for community supports, Finance said that while the objectives were "admirable" expenditure was "poorly targeted with few measurable deliveries" and should be halved to €75m.

Under the controversial Rapid grants scheme, which gives out over €7m a year in grants to 46 deprived areas, Finance said that the schemes carry "heavy deadweight costs". This scheme should be abolished in all but the 10 most deprived areas, it said.

The equally controversial Clár programme, in which Ó Cuív hands out almost €17m a year to rural areas that have suffered substantial declines in population, also comes under Finance scrutiny. "Investing in areas with very low populations cannot be seen as a priority in the current economic climate," Finance said bluntly, adding that it too should be abolished.

On a variety of grants to support the Irish language, Finance was highly critical of Ó Cuív's spending habits. On the Scéim Labhairt na Gaeilge, which gives an annual grant of €260 to economically deprived Irish-speaking families, Finance said the scheme "no longer [fulfilled] its original purpose".

On the €10.50 per day paid to Gaeltacht households who accommodate students attend­ing Irish-language courses, the Merrion Street mandarins said "a reduction to €5 per day would not impose any undue hardship".