In the run-up to last May’s elections for the regional assembly at Stormont the leadership of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) effectively vowed to smash Irish language education in the north-east of the country if reelected to the power-sharing executive. Sure enough the DUP has employed its senior position in the cross-community administration to follow through on its threats by using access to the education portfolio and other departments to starve Irish-speaking teachers, parents and children of funding and resources. True to its colonialist ideology, the belief that “British” culture in Ireland is superior in every respect to its indigenous counterpart, the hardline unionists of Arlene Foster’s party have given anti-Irish discrimination a new sheen of “respectability” for the 21st century. One that comes with the authority of the regional Stormont statelet and mainstream pro-union politics behind it. From a report by Derry Now:
A Derry principal has described as ‘farcical’ the decision by the Education Minister not to fund a nursery unit at his school.
The Board of Governors at Gaelscoil na Daróige in Ballymagroarty applied earlier this year to the Department of Education for the establishment of a statutory part-time Irish-medium nursery unit at the school.
There is already a voluntary nursery unit at the school but this does not receive government funding.
The proposed new nursery unit would have provided 26 part-time places from September 1.
However, the Education Minister, Peter Weir, has turned down the proposal.
The principal, Oisín Mac Eó, said he was disappointed with the Minister’s decision.
“The reasons given for not granting statutory status are, quite frankly, farcical.
“The Minister says he cannot allow us a statutory nursery as it will displace the already existing good quality, voluntary pre-school.
“We are in effect, being punished for running a good quality voluntary pre-school.
“In reality, the Department gets good quality education here on the cheap while maintaining the inequality between Irish Medium and English Medium in the area.
Mr Mac Eó claimed that before the last election, the DUP promised to halt the growth of Irish medium education which, he said, has more than doubled in enrolments in the last ten years.
“Since taking office in May, Peter Weir has pulled the plug on the relocation of a Falls Road gaelscoil from poor accommodation to an empty school building 400 metres down the road and controversially pulled funding from special needs nuture units in two other Belfast gaelscoils.
“It would seem the minister is not fulfilling his obligations to encourage and facilitate the growth of Irish medium education under the relevant Education Order and we are currently taking legal advice on a way forward.
Of course, it is the very popularity of gaelscoileanna, Irish-medium schools, which has drawn the animosity of the unionists parties, be they members of the DUP, the supposedly more militant TUV, or the theoretically more moderate UUP. Ideological unionism continues to be trapped in the recalcitrant mindset of a British Pied-Noirs community, with many unable and unwilling to tolerate the existence of the culture and language of those they share the same small patch of earth with.
Meanwhile, from the Belfast Media Group:
ULSTER University is to press ahead with three job cuts in its School of Irish Language and Literature, despite having already cut 142 academic posts in other areas.
The redundancies raise questions about equality and diversity, since the School of Irish looks set to lose its only female member of staff. On top of this, the other two colleagues earmarked to lose their jobs are the School’s only staff from designated non-Catholic backgrounds. The two colleagues in question are also the only two members of the school who do not originate from Ireland.
The cuts also mean that there will no longer be a full-time Irish language degree available at its Belfast campus.
Frustrated students will have to travel to Derry if they wish to partake in the degree putting even further financial strain on them.
There is now nowhere in Belfast for a student to continue with Irish in third level education. With A-Level results due out next week many 7th year students are now left feeling stranded.
South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said: “I am extremely disappointed with the University’s decision. Ulster University has a central role to play in the progress of the Irish language in Belfast and I feel it would be strengthened in their new campus.”