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Hundreds of Parents Denied Irish-Medium Education

May 1, 2009

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. has criticised the Department of Education and Science’s decision to withhold temporary recognition from seven new gaelscoileanna due to open September 2009.

In September 2008 the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe, announced the implementation of a two-year review process for recognising new primary schools. For the duration of this process, it is not intended to open any new schools, except those in rapidly developing areas that show a clear need for a new school, as dictated by demographic projections. Recent negotiations between GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. and representatives from the Department have revealed that all seven applicant Gaelscoileanna do indeed fall in the designated rapidly expanding areas, however Department resources are unable to cater for the demand. The significant growth in enrolment figures as far as 2013 for the proposed new schools categorically prove the demand for Irish-medium education in the designated areas.

The Department’s stance on this issue impedes upon parents’ constitutional right to choose the appropriate education for their children. It denies the rights of all parents currently on the founding committees who are diligently working towards ensuring that their children receive Irish-medium education, as an excellent system of education. A further disappointment for parents came with the refusal by the Department to grant temporary recognition to Gaelcholáiste Sligo – North Leitrim, despite demonstrated demand. Currently no Irish-medium post-primary provision exists in this area and the Department’s refusal demonstrates a lack of recognition of parental rights to Irish-medium education.

Mac Gréil’s research, published only this week shows that 93.2% of Irish people are supportive of the Irish-language. The research recommends that strategies are devised and supported to ensure the further promotion of the Irish language throughout the country. The Government’s own Vision Statement on the Irish-Language states, "A high standard of all-Irish education will be provided to school students whose parents/guardians so wish."

According to Bláthnaid ní Ghréacháin, Chief Executive of GAELSCOILEANNA TEO.,

"It is clear that the Department of Education and Science’s stance is runs contrary to government policy on the Irish-language, as well denying parents’ right to Irish-medium education. This is a narrow short-sighted attitude that will cost the Irish language a great deal in the short and long term. Investment in Irish-medium education is a logical and worthwhile initiative, not only in terms of the government’s own stated commitment, but also in ensuring the provision of an excellent standard of education for children in this country.

"Regarding the interim period of the review process for recognition of new schools, we will be seeking clarification from the Department that the unique circumstances of the Irish-medium sector be taken into consideration. We will continue to lobby the government to ensure that Gaelscoileanna are among those that will open their doors in 2010. As an education partner, we would welcome the opportunity to provide guidance and assistance to the Department of Education and Science to ensure that the Department fulfils it’s responsibilities in terms of the Irish-medium sector in this tough economic climate." 

GAELSCOILEANNA TEO. is the national co-ordinating body for schools teaching through the medium of Irish. It helps parents and local groups to set up new schools and supports the established all-Irish schools. There are 170 primary schools and 42 secondary schools currently providing education through the medium of Irish.