Gaelscoileanna Treated As 2nd Class Schools For 2nd Class Pupils

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 gymnasium

1 sports hall

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14 comments

  1. The simple fact is that no one outside of Ireland will ever take your language seriously or show it much respect unless you yourselves show it respect and treat it with more token gestures. TBH I was not a little shocked and indeed disappointed to read the above. But then who can understand the Irish? 😉

  2. Thanks again, ASF, for fearlessly telling it like it is.

    On a lighter note, however, I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the other scandalous aspect of this report: Wesley College has two (2) cricket pitches and zero (0) baseball fields. Náireaċ!

  3. “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.”

  4. well, maybe the moral to that story is that if you want celtic languages to survive, maybe it’s better to stay in the UK.

  5. when you say that 24% would prefer ed in Irish, what you mean is that 24% SAY that: doesnt necessarily mean they are telling the truth. In my experience a lot of the middle class enthusiasts for Gaelschoilana (sorry bout the spelling) were keen on these establishments so as to keep their little bourgy darlings away from the “New Irish” – same as lots of people in London suddenly have religious conversions so the brats don’t go to school in Brixton – well what pass for skules in Brixton.

    1. But we have the evidence from the primary schools themselves, some of which have triple the national average of applications.

      The implied discrimination claim is proven nonsense. If parents wanted to keep their children away from the “New Irish” they would send them to the numerous private English-medium schools around the country.

      Why would affluent middle-class parents send their kids to be educated in prefab classrooms? In glorified huts with work-site toilets for pupils and staff? The majority of Irish-medium schools are waiting decades for capital investment from the State.

      The majority of gaelscoileanna also have pupils from a broad mix of socio-economic backgrounds due to the very fact that there are so few available. Kids in Clondalkin, one of the strongest Gaelic areas in the capital, are hardly leading Instagram lifestyles.

      1. I went to St Mary’s Boys Primary school Brixton: there was little sectarian probs there cos we were too busy fighting, well, you know….

  6. I am really astonished. In most EU countries with linguistic and cultural minorities, this would have led to massive law suits against the Governments involved, and judgements enforcing non discrimination. It is very curious that irish activists have not resorted to this commonplace tactic. Given the kind of judiciary we have in Ireland, it might not work, but it will certainly raise hell. It will get into international media, and that can be built on. Irish activists need to look very carefully at the non-violent language campaign in wales, from 1975 onward, until devolved government arrived, and how it was a huge success. What is wrong with activists in Ireland. They seem to be about 50 years behind in activist campaigns and tactics. Frankly, if this is the best language campaigners can do, then this is pathetic.

  7. Further to my last comment, the people in Ireland who claim to be language activists are simply not doing things properly. They will not hear of, or use, the well tested tactics used by ethnic and linguistic minorities in other european countries, to obtain their language rights. Why?. Why also will they not look closely at the welsh campaign undertaken against the London Government control of the welsh nation, until a local government was returned to them and language rites restored?. is it the danger of a good example/. are these people serious. Or have the Irish lost their self respect and allowed themselves to be assimilated into the Anglo-sphere. ? It seems so. Nobody is suggesting anything other than peaceful non-violent civil disobedience, activist action against discrimination against irish speakers, etc etc?. I am convinced that only by a vigorous public campaign, that challenges the hegemonic power of the English language, are we going to get together. The fact that I am having to write this in English, says it all. I despair.

  8. ~25% of people are more than enough to seriously threaten the reelection chances of politicians who are hostile/indifferent to Irish. Why aren’t they doing anything about it?

    I don’t think that politicians in countries like Iceland, Wales, Baltic states and other small countries are superior and less corrupt than Irish politicians. But they know that treating their national languages like it’s done in Ireland won’t be tolerated. There would be protests and their asses would be voted out ASAP.

  9. Some children in some schools in Dublin cannot speak English, one school in the city centre is 85% non Irish , as there is significant immigration , I have no problem with that, making for example Polish the second language widely spoken in Ireland on a daily basis. What is lacking is free resources to learn Irish, I do not see why I should have to shell out a lot of money , I am after many years in Germany organising my own learning materials but would welcome a site like this one for Scottish Gaelic https://www.learngaelic.net/….

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