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Recommendation: COGG should function as a satellite to the NCCA

January 29, 2013

As no financial savings have been attributed to the decision to collocate the offices of COGG and the NCCA, An Chomhdháil recommends COGG should function as an independent satellite.

The future of An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG) has been discussed at length in the media over the past number of months since General Secretary of the Department of Education and Skills, Seán Ó Foghlú, first announced the decision to locate COGG and the NCCA in one building.

As the NCCA prepare to move offices this summer, it has been proposed by the Department of Education and Skills that the co-location should begin at that point.

At an educational conference in November, the Department of Education and Skills announced that no immediate change would occur to the functions of COGG. While this statement was presumably meant to reassure the educators present, the opposite was true as teachers left the conference of the opinion that “no immediate change” was tantamount to saying the functions were destined to change in the not too distant future.

The primary function of COGG is to support the specific requirements of education through the medium of Irish both in Gaeltacht areas and in Gaelscoileanna, and they therefore provide learning resources and teaching aids, as well as support and research to the relevant schools. The Department’s latest decision would see COGG concentrating more on their other functions in relation to the teaching of Irish as a subject in English speaking schools.

While addressing the Dáil in answering a parliamentary question on December 18th Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn assured the Dáil that COGG would be fulfilling their legislative functions as they have up until now, and that they would be doing so through Irish, and providing the same Irish language services to the public in the future as they are now.

A short number of weeks later, the Department changed their tune and wrote to the Chairperson of COGG informing him that staff would now have to revert to using English in their day-to-day jobs to facilitate liaisons with the staff of the NCCA.

Speaking about the decision of the Department of Education and Skills, Director of Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge, Kevin De Barra said “Until An Chomhdháil, Gaelscoileanna and Eagraíocht na Scoileanna Gaeltachta founded COGG, the structures did not exist to serve the unique requirements of Gaeltacht schools and Gaelscoileanna. Our sector is now afraid that this is the first step in the erosion of such support structures and services”.

De Barra contends the level of support COGG can provide Gaelscoil and Gaeltacht schools will deteriorate if COGG employees are obliged to concentrate specifically on the Irish language curriculum for English speaking schools.

Comhdháil Náisiúnta na Gaeilge have stated that the decision completely contradicts the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish language, which supports the role of COGG and states:

• An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta will play a key role in the implementation of the Strategy in the education sector working in collaboration with existing agencies.

• The Council will be appropriately staffed and resourced to carry out its existing remit:

• The role of COGG will be strengthened to reflect the need to address various issues particular to the teaching and learning of Irish in schools operating through the medium of Irish, both inside and outside the Gaeltacht and the teaching of Irish in all recognised schools.
Kevin De Barra says an urgent meeting will be requested with the Minister of Education and Skills in which An Chomhdháil will urge the Minister to consider the practicalities involved in the decision.

De Barra said, “No financial saving has been attributed to this decision. The new office of the NCCA will be located a stone’s throw from the current COGG office. Certain services such as legal or technical support can and should be shared, and COGG should certainly provide advice to the Minister and the NCCA about the Irish language curriculum. However, the primary role of COGG, to support education through the medium of Irish in Gaeltacht and Gaelscoil schools, would be best served by COGG functioning as an independent satellite to the NCCA, 100% through the medium of Irish”.