In Wales, just over 24% of primary school pupils and 23% of secondary level students are educated through the medium of Welsh. In 2017 the devolved or regional government in Cardiff launched an ambitious plan to raise that figure to 30% by 2030, while also encouraging bilingualism more generally throughout the country’s education system.
In contrast, the percentage of pupils in Ireland attending Irish language primary schools stands at just 6% of the total, with 2% of secondary students educated through the island’s indigenous tongue. Despite these abysmally low percentages repeated surveys have shown that a quarter of parents would opt for Irish medium education if given the choice. Unfortunately that choice is usually denied them, which is why the country’s Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí (primary and secondary schools) are so vastly oversubscribed, with waiting lists numbering in the thousands.
This situation is not an accidental one, a statistical quirk or another legacy of inimical foreign rule in centuries past. Ireland has been a sovereign and independent nation-state for nearly one hundred years and the blame for the parlous state of its national tongue lies squarely at the door of successive native governments. Governments which have treated the Irish language, regardless of party background and affiliation or the political and economic circumstances at the time, with indifference at best or antipathy at worse.
As Caoimhín Ó hEaghra, the head of An Foras Pátrúnachta, the largest patron of Irish-medium schools, notes in the Irish Times:
“No new Gaelscoil will open in the State this September in a year which has been designated as Bliain na Gaeilge [Year of the Irish].
…of the 3,000-plus primary schools in the country, only 8.3 per cent are Irish medium, with just 145 gaelscoileanna outside the Gaeltacht.
Economic and Social Research Institute findings in 2015 established that 23 per cent of respondents would choose a local Gaelscoil for their children if one were available, and further surveys which we have conducted all over the country confirm it.
As a result gaelscoileanna have long lists of people from all backgrounds wanting to get in.
At least 200 new gaelscoileanna would be needed over the next five-10 years to even begin to meet this demand. Given the priority, we are told the language is given and all the work which has been to done to revive it, we find ourselves in 2018 with almost one-quarter of parents willing to send their children to a Gaelscoil, and we cannot accommodate them – with not a single new Gaelscoil due to open this year.”
The likelihood of that demand for educational choice and equality being met in the next decade is negligible, regardless of what party or coalition of parties is in power.
Meanwhile, according to The Journal:
MINISTER FOR TRANSPORT Shane Ross has come in for criticism after announcing €150,000 in funding for a fee-paying school in his constituency [Wesley College].
He also announced €150,000 for resurfacing of the all-weather pitch at another fee-paying school Loreto Beaufort.
As one person on Twitter was quick to point out:
School already has:
4 Rugby pitches
1 floodlit Rugby grid
1 Soccer pitch
2 full size Hockey astro-turf pitches
2 mini Hockey pitches
2 full size Hockey grit pitches
16 Tennis courts during the Summer season
2 Cricket pitches
2 outdoor Basketball courts
1 sports hall