According to the all-party “20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030”, one of the most purposefully underfunded policies in the history of the modern nation-state of Ireland, it is official government policy to prioritise schooling through the medium of the Irish language:
“It will continue to be national policy to promote immersion education through Irish in all subjects other than English in Gaeltacht and Irish medium schools (gaelscoileanna) and preschools (naíonraí).”
Six years into an already deliberately minimalist language strategy almost none of its recommendations have been implemented. Instead they been blocked or ignored by politicians and bureaucrats imbued with the legacy of the old British colonial classes and their antipathy to any and all aspects of Irish “nativeness” (attitudes reflected in much of the domestic anglophone press too). Take this latest example of the casual discrimination that passes for government policy, featured in today’s Irish Times:
“Campaigners for a multidenominational Gaelscoil in north Dublin are calling for a change in the criteria used to grant school patronage after an application to open an Irish-medium school was rejected.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton refused to sanction the Gaelscoil in the Drumcondra/Marino/Dublin 1 catchment area despite the application registering the names of 733 children from the immediate area and adjacent school districts.
The children’s names – a record-breaking number for Gaelscoil campaigns nationwide – were submitted by proposed patron An Foras Pátrunachta on behalf of parents as part of the application.
Despite noting evidence “of considerable demand for all-Irish provision at primary level”, the department rejected the Gaelscoil application in favour of an Educate Together school, scheduled to open on the All Hallows campus in Drumcondra in September.
Karolina Stefanczak, a Polish woman living and working in Ireland who wishes to send her three-year-old daughter Gaia to the Gaelscoil, said…
“Currently there is not a single Irish-medium multidenominational primary school available from O’Connell Street to Swords. Living in the capital as we do it is bizarre that we do not have the option of this type of education. The Government should ensure that there is this type of education available for any parents who want it without imposing significant distances on them to travel.”
Highlighting the fact that the school would be the only Irish-medium school in the area without a religious ethos, she said: “Such a school would break that idea that the Irish language is only available to Catholics. Having a multidenominational Irish school opens the Irish language to everybody.””
Which raises three questions. Firstly, why are schools educating through the medium of our national language not treated as a priority in government recognition and funding (as per the 20 Year Strategy)? Secondly, why are all schools not moving towards significant aspects of Irish language immersion in their day-to-day working and teaching (as per the 20 Year Strategy)? And finally, why is their any religious patronage or qualifications for attendance in Irish schools? Publicly-funded institutions, paid for by tax-payers of many different backgrounds and beliefs, should be entirely secular in nature. The only faith they should be teaching is that of republican citizenship, and in its true classical sense.