Ruane: one rule for Irish schools, another for integrated education…

THE Irish News splashed today with how the education minister approved a new Irish-language primary school in Derry against the wishes of her senior advisers and inspectors. The officials’ reason was that there were already two such schools in the city, one of which was only 2.5 miles from the proposed new school and had 106 empty desks. Now, there’s nothing to say that advisers always get it right, and if ministers were always to follow civil service advice, some things would never get done. But since this was exactly the reason Caitriona Ruane gave for not approving at least two integrated schools in the past, it makes her look somewhat inconsistent and biased.

  • ggn

    Fair play to her. At last someone in Sinn Fein is indicating the presence of some male genitila (sic.).

  • Doctor Who

    “it makes her look somewhat inconsistent and biased.”


  • Garibaldy

    A shared future it is.

  • ggn

    At the end of the day she has the responsibility from to her electorate to recongise every IME school which fufills the criteria before the DUP take over education next time round.

    We will find that Mr Wilson will make no pretence at fairness or equality and will intend as Messers Weir and Spratt have recently done sell inequality to his electorate as success.

    As to the integrated schools, pity, I must take a look at those cases, then again I would be more likely to trust civil servents advices on those issues than I would with IME.

  • willowfield

    A no brainer for Ruane:

    More RC pupils at Gaelic schools means more children immersed in nationalist monoculture and more future votes for the Provos.

    More RC pupils at integrated schools means more children mixing with “the other sort”, more liberal attitudes, and fewer future votes for the Provos.

  • Shore Road Resident

    On the other hand, Willowfield, it does mean fewer provo-parent types putting their appalling offspring through the RC schools, where standards should benefit enormously.
    Think of it as a form of selection.

  • Peadar O’Donnell

    ‘More RC pupils at Gaelic schools means more children immersed in nationalist monoculture and more future votes for the Provos.’

    With respect this is junk. There are at least as many Irish speakers in the SDLP, if not more.

    And how does being able to speak two languages fluently, as opposed to one, amount to a ‘monoculture’?

  • willowfield

    And how does being able to speak two languages fluently, as opposed to one, amount to a ‘monoculture’?

    It doesn’t – but mixing only within one community, and particularly in a culturally-politicised environment such as the Gaelic language community – is effectively living in a monoculture. (In contrast to an integrated school.)

  • ggn

    “(In contrast to an integrated school.)”

    Hmmm, any integrated school I have been in did not have any provision for the Gaelic language whatsoever, thinly veiled state schools me thinks.

    That doesnt go for all of them I am sure but.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can I just say before this goes down the cheap political point scoring route, that the Irish language movement is in general non party political. The first Gaelscoil in Belfast only received funding after an intense ten year struggle of providing total immersion education for their kids.

    The focus of the story should be on whether in this particular case, the Minister has acted wisely or even properly not on ascribing generic motivations to all or any of the players.

    For those without a subscription, here’s the bent of the advice given to the minister. There is also

    Before approving funding Ms Ruane received a detailed submission from her head of development and infrastructure, Eugene Rooney, urging her to decline it.

    He said there was adequate cap-acity at two existing Irish-medium primaries with one just 2.5 miles away having 106 empty desks.

    His paper revealed that Bunscoil Cholmcille was “already in sharp decline”. Its numbers had fallen from 250 to 137 since a second school, Gaelscoil Eadain Mhoir, opened in 1998.

    He warned that a third grant-aided school would “have a very real impact on existing provision”.

    Ms Ruane was told the proposal did not have the support of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) which said Irish-medium provision in Derry city had reached “saturation point”.

    It said the two existing schools served the entire city and were not “local or community schools”.

    “The ETI also caution that to approve funding for Gaelscoil na Daroige would give a clear message to all areas in Derry that they should ask for and expect their own local school,” she was told.

    It would be useful to hear why the Minister thinks it important to open a third school when there is already fierce competition for places between Bunscoil Cholmcille and Gaelscoil Eadain Mhoir.

    I think we should be told.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Irish-medium schools had a good social mix until a few years ago when SF began actively taking over “non-aligned” boards. Displaced parents/governors have been obviously reluctant to speak out but the silence from the media has been harder to understand.
    While SF cultural fascism is clearly a major driving force behind this development, a rush to find jobs for the boys was the real motivator.

  • Shore Road Resident

    PS: Total immersion, Mick? I don’t normally make a habit of hanging out around primary school playgrounds but I used to park my car near one Irish-medium primary school and not only were the kids speaking English, but a particularly Anglo-Saxon variety thereof.

  • Dessertspoon

    I wouldn’t worry about any of this. If the reports are true and Sinn Fein are planning shoot us all in the foot on Thursday by next week some Direct Rule Minister will be in charge of education again. 🙁

  • ggn
  • Ermintrude

    What integrated schools have you been in, ggn? I’m shocked that any have no ‘provision for the Irish language whatsoever’. All the integrated schools I know offer Irish as one of their language options. The one I went too was constantly bending over backwards to offer everything available at RC and state schools, both as subjects and extra-curricular activities. I know of some parents who were hesitant to send their children there because they’d heard students ‘had’ to learn Irish – there’s an awful lot of misinformation about.

  • nineteensixtyseven

    It’s a bit silly to approve a new school in an area that has schools already struggling to fill places. Why did she approve the Irish language school in Derry while she rejected the integrated schools in similar positions? I’d like to hope the answer isn’t purely political but with this minister I wouldn’t be surprised.

  • percy

    SF website confirms telegraph story was unfounded, and Adams has moved to quell the rumour.

  • Mick

    I’m not being smart arsed the question is genuine, would this be the same civil service who advised against Irish language schools in the past?

    Plus I think most city parents would feel two and a half miles is quite a distance to send junior school kids to receive an education.

    Minister rejects civil servants advice, only in the mockney world of the Stormont administration would such a decision create a headline. Surly the whole point is for the civil service to offer advice/options and the minister then makes a decsion in line with their party platform.

    How did this story get in the press, can we expect plod to be called in to investigate the leak. [I jest of course]

  • Garibaldy

    I think Mick Hall has a fair point about the two and a half miles for primary school kids. But if it is true that one of the other Irish schools is massively oversubscribed, then surely less money could have been spent on providing transport.

    On the headline point, I think that integrated education simply must be at the centre of any progressive programme for NI. And yet we saw McGuiness approve two that had already been agreed, and none from Ruaneas far as I know. This is despite quite a bit of lipservice to integrated education, and statistics suggesting that if new integrated schools were to open they would be filled. I do worry about the prospects for its expansion. A great deal.

  • Mick Fealty


    It’s also the same civil service that cut the Mean Scoil Doire last year. But I think the specifics of the advice are more important than who gave it. It should be taken on its merits/de-merits.

    Resorting to old tribal lines like ‘they never liked us anyway’ is no way to arrive at a fair a equitable settlement in the face of the severe resourcing issues that face education in the round.

    I am not sure that the direct comparison with Integrated Education is entirely useful either.

    NICIE have accepted that there are budgetary constraints arising from the Bain report and are developing other strategies that take them around those constraints, and which allow them to pursue their objectives.

  • iluvni

    I must say, Glengormley’s Irish language school must be a real rip-roaring success when they’ve taken to attaching adverts to fences around the area to try and tempt parents to sign their kids up.

  • ggn

    Comhairle na Gaelscolaiochta have just been on the BBC defending the minister.

    They say that Doire has five Naiscoileanna and that a third Gaelscoil fits into the development plans.

    The Irish news story dismissed as a mountain out of a mole hill.


    Rather not say on internet old boy but I accept that the school in question is an exception.


    Cuir cosc orm!!!

  • Jer

    Fully agree that the Minister makes the call not the civil servants. There position is only to make recommendations and thats it. They dont make the calls. does seem to have the characteristics of a mole hile.

  • Firbolg

    ‘there’s an awful lot of misinformation about’ – there certainly is….
    You are mistaken if you believe that Irish is given the same support in all integrated schools as it enjoyed in your alma mater. Indeed you will be hard pressed to find any trace of the language in those ‘transformed’ integrated establishments. Irish is a requirement for year 8 students in the integrated school which my children currently attend. As for bending over backwards to offer everything available at RC schools, I can see no evidence of this. The provision for gaelic sports in my kids school is at best sporadic and even tokenistic.


    ‘It doesn’t – but mixing only within one community, and particularly in a culturally-politicised environment such as the Gaelic language community – is effectively living in a monoculture. (In contrast to an integrated school.)’

    A bit of an oversimplification. Firstly, most schools in NI are mono cultural in the context of the two main cultural identities, even those that proclaim themselves to be ‘mixed’. Why pick on Irish medium schools?.
    Protestants do attend Irish language schools and indeed are part of the Irish language community. One prod couple I know sent their children to a gaelscoil in part for the language but primarily because of the school is militantly non-denominational in character. The integrated school movement by contrast is explicitly christian in ethos.
    As for the ‘culturally-politicised environment’ you refer to – teachers in Irish medium schools deliver the national curriculum and are subject to inspection like teachers in all sectors. What exactly do you think they are doing?
    In this context Irish medium schools are no more monocultural than a controlled integrated school.

  • Mick Fealty


    Ní thig liom. Just bí ag faire don liathróid!

  • ulsterfan

    Long may Catriona reign.
    She is the reason for opposing the policies of SF which show lack of proper planning in the Dept of Education and is a easy target for Unionists—–we love her.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Mick F

    The focus of the story should be on whether in this particular case, the Minister has acted wisely or even properly not on ascribing generic motivations to all or any of the players.

    This is a matter of opinion. It is possible for ministers to ignore advice and the decision ends up being successful. For example, integrated schools that have been refused approval have gone on to enjoy high enrolments. Caitriona may turn out to be right on this decision (though personally I doubt it, and on that we are probably agreed even though it is a sideline issue for me), but if she is going to make such decisions, she should at least be consistent.

    Good luck to the school she approved. And even more to the one that will lose out to it.

    But to suggest that because the integrated sector is successful at raising enough funds to support schools that have not received approval means it should not be compared with Irish schools is somewhat disingenuous. Everything else being equal, it could be construed as arguing that good fundraisers should be punished for being able to set up and support schools.

    Perhaps there are lessons the Irish sector could learn from the integrated sector.

    Mick Hall

    The information was received via Freedom of Information request.

    And do you really, honestly think 2.5 miles is a long way to send your kid to school? Come on! Clutching at straws a bit there mate.

  • Steve

    In canada 2.5 miles is a long way to send kids to school in an urban environment. The only way it would work is if they bussed the kids to that school from outside an exclusion zone. which considering this is for small children would probsbly be a very small exclusion zone.

  • Gonzo

    In a city or town I feel two and a half miles is about the limit to send a child under the age of 11 to school. I’m for local schools for local people, I feel it is a disgrace that parents transport their children to school by car and if there were local options there would be no justification for doing so. Indeed I would make it unlawful to park at certain times within a radius of schools unless you had a permit.

    We live in an age when politicians talk a great deal about the environment, what better way to put their money where their mouths are than to provide local schools for local children.

    If there is ever to be state integrated education in the north, which is something which should be at the forefront of all progressive politicians and parents minds, then locality must be the first step. children who attend local schools tend to play with local kids in their free time, parents come into contact with each other etc etc. Such is how successful communities are partially built

    Once Blair demanded the right to send his children miles across London for their schooling, I new he was full of shit and so it proved. He like most of todays politicos was, and is a man who believes power and wealth gives him the right to buy whatever he wishes.

    In a civilized society education is not for sale, it is the right of all.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Mick H

    OK. I take your point (esp for younger kids), but I would say a bus should be available for such a distance for children. The school run is a terrible congestion cause.

    And yes, more integrated schools would be a good thing for our society.

  • RG Cuan

    As has already been pointed out, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta – who were unbelievably omitted from the IN article – support the new Gaelscoil.

    Speaking on Radio Ulster’s Blas last night, a representative of CnaG said that according to their strategic assessment there are enough pupils attending Doire’s Irish medium nurseries to sustain three primary schools.

    He also made it clear that Gaelscoil na Daróige has not even received any funding yet!

    Everyday ministers make decisions based on reasoning other than that of their civil servant advisers.

    A mountain out of a molehill without a doubt.