Iontaobhas Strikes Back

Well we have had some attacks from the Dublin media lately on Gaelscoileanna, obviously some people are starting to get a little worried about a sector which just keeps growing. Needless to say Ms 7 Mrs Carey’s article was heavy on bile and light on facts, if not devoid competely. Concubhar Ó Liatháin, who enjoys a pint or two round here has also noticed this story.

It is good therefore to see Iontabhas na Gaelscolaìochta striking back with a little rational and some facts, though we in this parish know that rational is often drowned out by those for whom ignorance is not a condition but a security blanket.Robert McMillen in the Irish News takes up their response.

Iontaobhas begin with a bold statement, “it was not until the founding of the first Gaelscoil or Irish-Medium school, almost 40 years ago, that the language movement in the north really took off“. I think it was standing on a fair few shoulders actually.

Some of the other pieces which stood out for me are …

“Nowadays, due to Gaelscoileanna we have more five-year-old speakers of Irish that we had for over 150 years”

I have my doubts as to the accuracy of this statement but I understand the sentiment.

“some 4,000 pupils are attending Irish-Medium Education and this is on the increase”.

This figure relates to the North only and is certainely impressive given the Dept. of Education’s pre GFA attitude to IME. That said, though significant, it is just a start.

“One such community in Carntogher, County Derry has gone from almost no children with Irish 20 years ago to some 70% now fluent in the language”.

South Derry is certainely one of the mose dynamic areas in Ireland and Scotland regarding the restrenghthing of the Gaelic tongue, especially significant when it is taken into considertation that native speakers could be found in the area less than fifty years ago. It would be interesting to find out what percentage attend IME in the areas of West Belfast where the language is strongest such as the Ballymurphy / Turf Lodge areas and the areas around the Shaw’s Road Gaeltacht and the Cultùrlann. Does anyone know?

“Professor Colin Baker, one of the world’s foremost experts on bilingual education, recently said that ongoing rigorous research on immersion education as practised in Irish-medium schools shows that children who attend them have significant academic, intellectual and social advantages. Becoming bilingual from an early age literally changes that way we think and perceive things, it effects how the brain is hardwired and it enhances our ability to think. These benefits are lifelong”.

The arguement based on the value bilingualism cannot be stressed enough in my view and it is good to see that Iontaobhas are stressing it above all other factors. That is not to say that other arguements such as the cultural value of Irish in itself should be ignored.

Of course some might claim that it is simply unfair that “academic, intellectual and social advantages” are the rewards of bilingualism but they will not be keeping me up at night.

  • Rory Carr

    That mean little piece from the Irish Times site that you linked positively reeked of all the high moral tone of a statement from an international accounting group.

    It positively stank of petty spitefullness from someone (who?) who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The kind of stuff that by comparison makes Melanie Griffith seem compassionate.

    I am so glad that we have your open-hearted response above to serve as an alkali in order to dilute the stomach acid that it triggered as it will soon be time for an early dinner.

  • foreign correspondent

    I read that article and I thought it was a very bitter article myself. The IT used to be reasonably favourable to the Irish language. Has there been a change of policy under Geraldine Kennedy?

  • Chirrup

    No, the IT has become more favourable to the Irish language. The Irish Times is a bit like the Belfast Newsletter in that it was originally a radical republican Protestant newspaper and then became a Protestant Unionist organ. The IT was primarily Protestant owned and read up until the 1960/70s. Its views on the Irish language up until then were absolute bile. The Irish Times never even had a Catholic editor in its history up until 1987. Sarah Carey transfered to IT from the Sunday Times. This piece it atypical from the IT, which invariably contains at least a few articles every day in Irish.

    I do think however it reflects the growing popularity of the language with the middle classes. Carey is afraid that by going to a Gaeilscoil her children aren’t meeting enough immigrants, which of course begs the question as to why she sent them there in the first place. Only the other day did I hear Irish being spoken in Raheny, a former Unionist stronghold but now a middle class area. My cousins in Waterford are going to a naíonra and can speak fluently in it even though neither of their parents can speak much (their father is British). Irish medium schools are disproportionally represented in the top twenty feeder schools to universities.

  • How do Gaelscoileanna cope with special needs kids and are they provided with an equivalent level of support for them?

    I have seen it said over here in english-language regions of Canada that French immersion schools tend to have fewer special needs or otherwise slow learning kids – often because of a lack of resources and trained teachers. This leads elitist, “helicopter” parents who are constantly looking for an “edge” for their kids put them in FI because they think they will get an advantage over English public classes with an unstreamed intake.

  • Rory Carr

    Of course the clear academic advantages of exposure to a Gaelscoileanna education and the perceived disadvantages – social ghettoisation and shabby infrastucture of many existing such schools – posed by the author of this bilious piece might best be addressed by something that I should have thought was rather obvious and that is that the National schools be mandated to embrace the curriculum of the Gaelscoileanna.

    Or is this another step “not yet ripe for political debate”?

  • Oilifear

    What an baseless and spiteful article. That lady’s got some chip on her shoulder. Parents in slept out in freezing temperatures last week to make sure that their kids got into a Mercy secondary school in Tralee. There are parents that will go to greater lengths to ensure their kids have an advantage.

    “But do me two favours: stop pretending that this all about the Irish language and don’t expect the rest of us to pay for it.”

    It’s not all about the Irish language, it’s also about maths, science, history, art, geography, English and sport. It is about mixing with peers of all social classes and developing as a person. And yes, since the 1960’s, you can expect the rest of us to pay for it … it’s called “free education”.

    Mark Dowling, it depends on what you mean by “special needs kids”. If you means physically disabled, I don’t see the issue. Neither would I presume any special issue for kids with dyslexia, ADHD or Asperger’s (at a practical level, these are usually detected after the child starts school).

    There might be a self-selection process among parents of children with acute learning difficulties that present at a pre-school age. I suppose a measure would be to count the number of kids with Down’s syndrome in gaelscoilleanna. Although, it should be borne in mind that self-selection might send a greater number to gaelscoilleanna. I know of one (English-medium) two-teacher school in Mayo that for all intents and purposes specialises in “special needs kids”. Parents self-select it specifically for it’s small size.

  • Babykins

    The answer has been revealed!

    All those educationalists down through the years scrabbling away at how to improve children’s prospects, if only they had realised that learning a second language, no doubt especially Irish, would turn children into intellectual giants.

    World hunger, the Middle East and global warming will all be solved as this generation of Irish Medium educated comes of age.

    Nonsense of course but I assume Myths 1 features heavily in the syllabus.

  • finches

    “[i]All those educationalists down through the years scrabbling away at how to improve children’s [/i](sic) [i]prospects[/i]”

    Babykins, when you attempt to do sarcasm, at least make it funny.

    BTW, does anyone know of an Ulster-Scots medium school in Northern Ireland? Have we reached that stage yet?

  • Mick Fealty

    One not to miss. Pat Kenny Show on RTE Radio 1 tomorrow. Death Match guaranteed! We might even live blog it!! 😉

  • Oilifear

    “… learning a second language, no doubt especially Irish, would turn children into intellectual giants.”

    (Deliberately ignoring childish sarcasm.) Not Irish especially, the same effect has been observed elsewhere … although I think “giants” is an exaggeration.

  • Dublin voter

    “Only the other day did I hear Irish being spoken in Raheny, a former Unionist stronghold but now a middle class area.”

    Ah Jasus, Chirrup, what utter ráiméis/rubbish. I grew up in the neighbouring parish to Raheny (I presume you are referring to Raheny, Dublin?). Yes I remember well the beating of the Orange drums in Raheny in the 60s as I made my way to school.

    I’m afraid the total rubbishness of that sentence exposes your whole contribution to this debate as iffy.

  • finches

    Oops Dublin Voter I confused it with Rathmines. Rathmines always voted unionist in its borough council elections until 1929 when they were abolished. Before independence it was represented by Maurice Dockrell in the House of Commons for the Unionist Party.

  • finches

    finches=chirrip btw

  • @Oilfear – in NB it’s mostly mental disability would be the issue but in British Columbia, Ontario and Ireland English as a Second Language in the Family (i.e. immigrants) would also be deemed to be holding back little diddums from going to Harvard or McGill or Trinity.

  • Dublin voter


    Thanks for that clarification. I must look at my electoral map of the South c1918. Former Unionist stronghold = fus. The following areas will in future be known respectively as: the fus of Dún Laoghaire, the fus of Monkstown, the fus of Bandon, the fus of Rathnew and so on.

  • Darren J. Prior

    I started a thread on which also went into that debate on The Pat Kenny Show here: