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.

Freelance journalist, working mostly in Irish.

Have my own independent news website – – which is in constant need of material.

I am the former editor of the newspaper Gaelscéal,