McNamara pushes for fully independent second level Gaelcholáiste in Clare

The need to develop a fully independent second level Gaelcholáiste in County Clare has been raised in the Dáil by Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara.

Addressing Education Minister Norma Foley in Irish on the matter, Deputy McNamara said it was a ‘scandal’ that the Department of Education had yet to respond to a submission made by Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board on the matter over two years ago.

“It is a shame that the County Clare community is still waiting for an independent all-Irish post-primary school after 30 years,” commented Deputy McNamara. “There are over 20 post-primary English schools in County Clare and there is currently an enrolment crisis in Ennis. Not even one of these post-primary schools is fully Irish to serve more than 600 students who are attending Gaelscoileanna throughout the county. Parents and students have run out of patience as they await action from the Department of Education.”

“Gaelcholáiste an Chláir was established as an all-Irish unit within Ennis Community College in 1993. There really is no such thing as an all-Irish unit. Gaelcholáiste an Chláir is a unit linked to Ennis Community College, the parent school, under the patronage of the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board. The unit has an all-Irish preference in name and being and provides post-primary education through the medium of Irish as much as it can within the English environment of the mother school.

“Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg is the school that supplies the most students to Gaelcholáiste an Chláir. Since 2005, the Gaelscoil, the town’s all-Irish primary school, has increased from 200 pupils to 470 pupils. 100 pupils attend all-Irish nurseries each year in the Innes network alone. The transfer rate from Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Císóg to the unit stands at between 50% and 70% a year.”

“It is not clear that the Department of Education understands the amount of work being done by the students and parents in Ennis. In short, it is an out and out scandal that the Department has not received a response to the request for independence sent by the pattern, the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, more than two years ago,” added Deputy McNamara, speaking in Irish throughout.

In her response, also in Irish, Minister Foley said, “As part of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030, my Department has committed to creating opportunities to expand education through the medium of Irish outside of Gaeltacht areas.”

The Minister continued, “Most new post-primary schools must have a student enrolment capacity of 600 to 1,000 students. A lower threshold of 400 students may apply to Gaelcholáistí, having regard to the alternative of establishing an Irish-medium unit or aonad in an English-medium school. This is a potential outcome from the patronage process for new schools established to cater for demographic need. It is also possible for any post-primary school patron to contact the Department to explore the establishment of an aonad in an existing school.”

“I understand the points being made by the Deputy and the work being done in Ennis to promote and preserve the Irish language,” she added. “I visited Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg so I know the work that is going on all over the place in Ennis. As I said, we are working on a new policy to promote and strengthen units, Gaelscoileanna and Gaelcholáistí. The most important thing is to strengthen them all. We will keep the Clare Irish College issue under review. That is what I have to say at this point because we are developing that policy.”