‘Every child in the State should have the opportunity to be educated through Irish,’ committee told

Campaigners for Irish-medium schools criticised Minister Foley and Department of Education before an Oireachtas committee

Minister for Education Norma Foley should “act now” to cater for the high demand for Irish medium secondary school provision across the Dublin area, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

Representatives of campaign groups, patron bodies and parents campaigning for eight new Irish-medium secondary schools and a primary school in the Dublin 10 and 12 area were highly critical of the Minister and of the Department of Education’s approach to the provision of Irish-medium education in the Greater Dublin Area, when they came before the joint committee on the Irish language and Gaeltacht on Wednesday.

In his submission, Eóin MacMaoilir representing the campaign Gaelscoil4Cherrywood, said parents who wish to send their children to Irish-medium schools have been “left out” of the process due to the State’s approach to school patronage.

“It’s like gerrymandering,” he said.


“The process is built in such a way that our voice is lost. Every child in the state should have the opportunity to be educated through Irish,” he said.

The failure to provide secondary-level education through Irish was resulting in missed opportunities for greater integration for minorities, at a time when the population is increasing, the joint committee was also told.

Large housing estates are “continuously being built” in the Cherrywood area, MacMaoilir said. And, citing a 48 per cent increase in pupils attending Irish-medium primary schools in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown since 2015, he said the lack of provision meant most of these students end up attending an English-medium secondary school.

Many of the parents come from other countries, he said, which underlines the Irish language’s potential as a “tool for integration”.

At the end of the day, the first fall in attendances at Gaelscoileanna in 50 years has happened due to a ‘change of tune’ during the term of the current Government

—  Cormac Cashin - An Foras Pátrúnachta

Treasa Ní Mhurchú, on behalf of the campaign for a Gaelscoil in the Dublin 10/12 area, said children in the Ballyfermot/Drimnagh areas previously attended Gaelscoileanna in neighbouring school districts. However, increased demand has meant those schools are no longer an option.

“We want to raise the next generation of Irish speakers,” she said.

Pointing out that the Local Area Development Plan for Ballyfermot/Drimnagh area has provision for three new schools, she asked whether a Gaelscoil will be provided for on the basis that there is no existing Irish-medium primary school.

Under a policy commitment made by then Minister for Education Joe McHugh in 2019, new schools must be run as Gaelscoileanna in areas where there is no existing Irish-medium primary school or where there is more than one new primary school to be established over the next three years.

“Over 1,500 new residential units are planned for the Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard area and Drimnagh currently has 800 new residential units planned,” Ms Ní Mhurchú said.

“We want to offer parents a better choice in our area,” Ms Ní Mhurchú said.

Cormac Cashin of An Foras Pátrúnachta said: “It is clear that no one in the Department of Education is working towards resolving the issue of provision.”

“At the end of the day, the first fall in attendances at Gaelscoileanna in 50 years has happened due to a ‘change of tune’ during the term of the current Government.”

Mr Cashin said: “There is no process, there is no process, there is no application form, there’s no contact [person] in the Department of Education, there is no civil servant with a responsibility examining how to cater for new schools.”

“The policy now is not to create new schools. So what happens when schools run out of space? They are going to make existing [English language] schools bigger and bigger.”

Julian de Spáinn, general secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said “We have to come back to the basic fact that responsibility lies with the Minister for Education. The current minister should take the decisions needed to allow for the establishment of Irish medium secondary schools so that the reduction [in provision] that we have seen since this Government came into power increases no further.

Irish-medium education system is losing a lot of children due to the absence of an Irish-medium secondary school in our area

—  Cormac Chambers - Lios na nÓg

“We need to go back to what was outlined in the Programme for Government, a doubling in the number of pupils attending Irish-medium education.”

“The current Minister has to do that, not the Department.”

Speaking on behalf of the campaign for an Irish-medium secondary school in the Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 8 postal districts, Lios na nÓg principal Cormac Chambers said it was evident that “Irish-medium education system is losing a lot of children due to the absence of an Irish-medium secondary school in our area”.

“This is scandalous and it highlights the lack of respect the State and the Department of Education have for the development the Irish language and Irish-medium education.”

Mr Chambers said a survey conducted by the campaign showed that 85 per cent of parents with children in early years classes said they would be interested in sending their children to an Irish medium secondary school in the area.

However, he pointed out that many parents are forced to decide on a secondary school by the time their child reaches 3rd class and as a result, the results of the survey show a “significant decrease” in the numbers interested in sending children to a gaelcholáiste as they progress through the more senior classes.

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Éanna Ó Caollaí

Iriseoir agus Eagarthóir Gaeilge An Irish Times. Éanna Ó Caollaí is The Irish Times' Irish Language Editor, editor of The Irish Times Student Hub, and Education Supplements editor.