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O’Dowd turns down Castlederg Irish language satellite unit

August 29, 2014

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has turned down a development proposal to expand Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh, Strabane.

The Western Education and Library Board, on behalf of the Board of Governors of Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh, published a development proposal seeking to expand the school through the establishment of an ‘off-site unit’ in Castlederg.

This unit was to be a conversion of the existing, independent Irish-medium provision in Castlederg, Gaelscoil na Deirge.

The Minister said: “I take my statutory duties in relation to Irish-medium education very seriously and I recognise that both Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh and Gaelscoil na Deirge deliver good quality education through the medium of Irish to children in the Strabane and Castlederg areas respectively.

“I am also, however, duty bound to consider carefully all the information pertinent to any proposal to establish new provision on a case-by-case basis.

“While my Department has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education, it would not be prudent for me to approve this proposal to expand Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh. The proposal as put forward is not financially viable and approval would potentially see the school fall into a deficit position which in turn may threaten the viability of the host school.

“Furthermore, a new-build project for Gaelscoil Uí Dhochartaigh, close to its existing Strabane site, is currently progressing in planning. The new-build project does not factor in the costs or implications associated with establishing an extension of the school in Castlederg and would inevitably need to be reassessed should the new unit be approved.

“I would also highlight the many practical issues that would arise from establishing and running what would effectively be a split-site school with locations some 13 miles apart. There is a risk, for example, that pupils at the Castlederg location would experience a lack of peer socialisation with their counterparts on the Strabane site.

“Taking all of these factors into account, I am not satisfied that the establishment of the proposed ‘off-site unit’ at Castlederg is viable or in the best educational interests of the children.”

The Minister went on to say: “By turning down this proposal, I would emphasise that I am not suggesting that there is no demand for Irish-medium education in the Castlederg area.

“Further work is required to provide a robust solution to meet this demand that is educationally strong and viable, financially sound and works to the benefit of local children.

“I am therefore tasking Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the Western Education and Library Board and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools to explore options for Irish-medium provision in the area. I will give due consideration to any new development proposals that may arise.

“I firmly believe that this approach will best serve the longer term interests children and parents in Strabane and Castlederg who wish to learn through the medium of Irish.”

Londonderry Sentinel

Minister visits new premises for Dungiven school

June 19, 2014

Education Minister John O’Dowd has visited new premises for Gaelscoil Neachtain in Dungiven.

Gaelscoil Neachtain opened in September 2012 and is one of only two controlled Irish-medium primary schools in Northern Ireland. The school operated at first on the site of the former St Canice’s Primary School nearby until relocating to refurbished premises at the vacant Dungiven Primary School, after a £700,000 investment by the Department.

Speaking about his visit, the Minister said: “Over the past 30 years the Irish-medium sector across the north has transformed into a vibrant, dynamic and integral part of our education system. I am committed to providing choice for parents where there is a need and it was clear that there was demand and support for education in the Irish language in the Dungiven area.

“I am delighted to be here today to see the results of my Department’s £700,000 investment which has substantially improved the school accommodation for the benefit of both the staff and the pupils. I congratulate Principal Marian Kelly and the staff at the school who have worked hard to get to this stage.

“I wish Gaelscoil Neachtain and everyone connected with the school every success as they settle into their new premises.”

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín has welcomed the visit. He said: “As more and more people are deciding to educate their children through the medium of Irish the demand for a modern Irish medium school in Dungiven grew.

“I would congratulate those people who took in the campaign to get a dedicated school for the Irish language community and we now see the fruits of their labour with this new school, Gaelscoil Neachtain.

“I am delighted that the Education Minister John O’Dowd paid a visit today to the newly finished school to endorse the work carried out before it opens it doors in the new term.

“The school will provide modern facilities in which children right across the Dungiven and Limavady area will be taught through Irish.

“I would like to thank the Minister for his commitment to the Irish language sector in ensuring tat the school is now ready for the new term.”


Irish language party in Guildhall Square

August 26, 2013

Details of the second birthday bash for a drive to get as many people as possible speaking Irish by 2015, have been announced.

In January the Sentinel reported how the Líofa (fluent) party would take place in Londonderry this year. Breithlá Líofa 2012 will be a free event in Guildhall Square on Sunday (September 8) from 1pm to 4pm. It’s now been announced Fearghal Mac Uiginn will host the party, which will feature performances from Gweedore songstress Aoife Ní Fhearraigh, traditional collective Sontas, and acclaimed Scottish singer Maeve Mackinnon who will be joined by Ross Martin and Angus Lyon. Last year Líofa’s first birthday, which took place in Custom House Square, Belfast, attracted criticism from Traditional Unionist voice (TUV) MLA Jim Allister as it cost upwards of £17k.

But Líofa supporters claim the drive has been used to bring communities together, not least at a major cross-community event in Londonderry organised by the Grand Orange Lodge and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The organisers of the the forthcoming party are inviting everyone to come along whether they can speak Irish or not. There will be traditional music from Ireland and Scotland, children’s activities and fun for all the family, the organisers say.


Irish drive’s second birthday party to take place in CoC13

June 4, 2013

THE second birthday party for an initiative to get as many people as possible across the whole of Northern Ireland speaking the Irish language by 2015 will take place in Londonderry UK City of Culture in 2013.
Last year’s Líofa (fluent) Party, which took place over one day in Custom House Square in Belfast last year, cost £17k.

It featured performances from a range of artists including renowned Dungiven harpist Nodlaig Brolly.

Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín has now announced that this year’s birthday party will take place in Londonderry in September.

The Minister explained: “This year’s Líofa birthday party will be held in Derry, as part of the City of Culture.”

The Culture Minister concluded: “The event will be held in early September and will provide a focus for individuals and Irish Language organisations with the aim of promoting and publicising the Irish Language to all.”


Mayor backs Lá na Gaeilge

March 11, 2013

Londonderry’s Mayor is supporting Lá na Gaeilge in Guildhall Square, the day before St Patrick’s Day.

Mayor Kevin Campbell, endorsed the celebration of Irish language and culture, stating: “With 2013 being Bliain na Gaeilge (the National Year of Irish), I thought it was a good opportunity to support a programme of outdoor events on March 16 which would mark the end of Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish Language Week) and celebrate Irish language and culture in the city. “Guildhall Square will be buzzing on Lá na Gaeilge with a range of family friendly events including an outdoor céilí, traditional Irish music sessions, performances by children from our local Gaelscoileanna, an Irish language information point and arts and crafts activities for families,” he said.


Kids’ Irish language books festival

February 19, 2013

A CHILDREN’S book and storytelling festival conducted through the Irish language will run in Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013 from March 7-9 as part of Irish Language Week 2013.

The festival aims to inspire a love of books, reading and storytelling in the Irish language among children of all ages.

Féile Bheag na Leabhar begins on Thursday, March 7, with a special storytelling event for children aged between 8 and 11 to celebrate World Book Day.

Donegal storyteller Gearóidín Bhreathnach and Séamas Mac Annaidh are amongst those taking part with the latter hosting a reading and storytelling event for children aged between 5 and 7 which will re-imagine traditional Irish myths and fables for a younger audience.

This event will feature folktales and legends reinterpreted for new listeners and told in the storyteller’s inimitable dramatic style.

The festival closes on Saturday, March 9, with the launch of the beautiful children’s book ‘Déanann Rosie Réidh’ which was written, illustrated and produced by local author Trisha Deery and which will be read in Irish by Cara Ní Mhaonaigh.

Participating children are invited to come dressed for a party like the Rosie Red character who features in the book and hear stories in Irish take part in some fun party activities in the Irish language.

Trisha Deery who wrote and illustrated the book will also be there to join in the celebrations and to do some live drawing with the children!Féile Bheag na Leabhar is organised by Derry City Council in partnership with the Humdinger! Children’s Literature Festival. You can download the full Humdinger! programme from the following link: www.humdingerbookfestival.com.

Throughout the festival an Irish language book-fair featuring the very best in Irish language publishing will be available. All events will take place at Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin.

All events will be delivered in the Irish language. Prior booking is essential for all events as places are limited.


Principal encourages parents to bring up kids bilingually

January 8, 2013

A LONDONDERRY school principal has encouraged people to come along to a range of multi-level Irish language classes this New Year to enable them to bring up their children bilingually at home.

Oisín MacEó, principal of Gaelscoil na Daróige encouraged people to look out for classes and events in their own area and to make it their New Year’s resolution to learn or improve their Irish.

“We are offering classes for both the beginner and the more advanced learner in the Ballymagroarty, Springtown, Hazelbank and Rosemount area. There will also be an e-book club for primary pupils and a fun Saturday club for former gaelscoil pupils now at secondary schools,” he said.

He added: “This is open to all family situations, for example whether all the adults speak Irish fluently already or if one or both of the parents is only learning. “The programe will support the parent in drawing up an action plan relevent to them and there will be informal classes directed at learning language used in the home. “It is hoped that this will lead to the establishing of a support group in the town for families looking to bring their children up through Irish or bilingually.”

The beginner and advanced Irish classes will be held at Gaelscoil na Daróige and in the Ballymagroarty Community Flat in Synge Court, while the parents’ programe will take place at the Gaelscoil.

Demand is expected to be high and so people are asked to contact the school as soon as possible at 71371414 by e-mail at scoil1@hotmail.com or on Gaelscoil na Daróige’s Facebook page.

The various Irish language classes and events organised across the town this year will compliment the Líofa initiative, which aims to have 5000 people signed up to become fluent in Irish by 2015.


Prestigious Gael Linn quiz prize for St Mary’s Irish language students

November 5, 2012

Pupils from St. Mary’s Limavady have for many years entered teams in the quiz and have been successfully placed in the top positions.

This year has been no different with one of the school entry’s achieving runner up in the competition. Pupils from across Londonderry attended the Gael Linn Quiz held in the White Horse Hotel. The quiz which is organised by Gael Linn takes place each year and encourages the use of the Irish Language. The annual quiz forms one of many activities organised by Gael Linn with the main aim of fostering and promoting the Irish language and its heritage throughout Ireland as a living language and as an expression of identity.

Year 10 pupils, Eoin Mc Mahon, Liam Mc Guinness, Michael Donaghy and Matthew O’ Kane were delighted to take the prize and Head of Modern Languages at the school, Miss Cairns said that she was: “very proud of the boys on their achievement and it was events such as these that allows pupils to see the practical application of their skills when studying a language”


HUNDREDS of Irish speaking zombies will be mingling amongst the hosts and ghouls in Londonderry this Hallowe’en

October 30, 2012

A 200 strong contingent of teenagers will be setting up camp in Londonderry for the duration of the holiday, as they attend the annual Oireachtas conference in Letterkenny.
They are planning to sample the best that scary Londonderry has to offer while they are here. According to the group’s spokesperson, Ríonach Ní Scolaí, this is the first time that Ógras have attended the festival. They hope to take in as many local Hallowe’en events as they can over the course of the Oireachtas.

“We have kids coming up from all parts of Ireland – from Maghera, Downpatrick, Dublin, Kildare, Naas, and all over – to take part in Scléip na hÓige the youth events at Oireachtas na Gaeilge, the Irish language and culture festival,” she explained.

“The festival takes place in Letterkenny, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to take in the carnival while we’re here, as we’ve heard so much about it and the members are all really excited about the trip.

“The young people are all aged between 12-18, and while we attend the Oireachtas each year this is the first time we will be taking part in the Hallowe’en celebrations.

“We’ve visited the city before and enjoyed a walking tour around the walls, so the kids are really looking forward to being part of such a huge local event.”

“Ógras is an Irish language youth organisation with youth clubs based throughout the country, and each year they attend the Oireachtas Irish Language Festival for a three day celebration of Irish culture, from sports to dancing. “We take part in the Oireachtas parade every year, so this year it’s great to take part in something different and the kids are all looking forward to dressing up as zombies for the parade,” Rionach said.

“We’ll stay in the city and spend Hallowe’en day in Derry sightseeing, watching the fireworks and enjoying the craic in the city centre. We’ve heard so much about the carnival and hope to catch as many of the events as we can while we’re in the city. So watch out for us in the parade – we’ll be the Irish-speaking zombies!”

For more information about all the events taking place in the city this Hallowe’en go www.derrycity.gov.uk/Halloween or follow the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/banksofthefoylehalloweencarnival


New school opens in Dungiven

September 6, 2012

A NEW Irish language school in Dungiven opened its to doors to pupils for the first time this week.

Gaelscoil Neachtain is the first inter-denominational state controlled Irish-medium primary school in the Western Education and Library Board (WELB) area, and opened its doors to pupils for the first time on Monday, September 3, with an enrolment of 65 pupils.

The Chair of the Interim Board of Governors (IBOG), Nodlaig Ní Bhrollaigh, congratulated the newly-appointed principal, of Gaelscoil Neachtain, Marian Uí Cheallaigh, and wished her every success in her new role.

Ms Ní Bhrollaigh, said: “This is an historical occasion for all involved with Gaelscoil Neachtain.and for gaeloideachais in the area. We view this development as a progressive step as it will allow for the development and growth of Irish medium education and increase access to Irish medium education across the community. We are looking forward to supporting the school over the coming year and moving to permanent premises at the former controlled primary school in the near future.”

In May this year, the Education Minister John O’Dowd approved a development proposal to establish a free standing Irish-medium school, Gaelscoil Neachtain for the Dungiven area and approved the closure of the existing Irish-medium unit at St Canice’s PS – Bunscoil Naomh Cainneach which hosted an Irish Medium unit for 10 years.

With a wealth of experience in education in an Irish medium setting over the last decade, the new principal Máirin said: “I am delighted to be appointed as Principal of Gaelscoil Neachtain and have been working closely with the Western Board in planning and preparing for how the new school will operate.”

She added: “My ambition is to provide an excellent standard of education through the medium of Irish in a positive learning environment for all our pupils that will help enrich the lives of the children, their families and the wider community of Dungiven.”

The new school crest designed by local artist, Murrough O’Kane, portrays an image of a window from the old Priory in Dungiven as the school is named after the first abbot of the Priory, a Scottish born Saint called, Saint Neachtain and the uniform incorporates the famous Dungiven tartan.

Gaelscoil Neachtain is the second controlled Irish-medium school, after Bunscoil Mhic Reachtain in Belfast.