Review of Irish medium education.

I have been contacted recently by a source working within the Irish medium sector voicing their concerns with the recent review of Irish medium education, due to the fact that most parents with children attending IME schools it has been requested that I reproduce these opinions in English as well as Irish.The recent review of Irish-Medium Education has now finished with the DE considering the responses; however it may still be possible that a great opportunity to support a sector backed with the best of international research may fall short. While there is much to praise in the review, the first is that is that it happened at all and second must be that research included in it shows that DE has recognised perhaps for the first time, that the Irish-Medium Education offers real educational as well as linguistic benefits.

Unfortunately what the report fails to do, is to actually examine what Irish-medium Education sets out to achieve and then look at the review within this context. This lack of a general goal or scene setting has left the review document floundering somewhat and thus while the reports aim was to ‘fully and appropriately support Irish-Medium as a integral part of the educational system’, it is difficult to support something if there is no definition as to what it is you wish to support.

The new website of the Irish-medium body Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta (CnaG) clearly sets out a vision for the sector “The development of a viable, inclusive system of Irish-medium education that will contribute to the development of Irish speaking families and communities.” all within the greater context of the highest standards in education. As CnaG were founded and are funded by DE, perhaps one might be forgiven for using their vision as a yard stick in the absence of anything from the review report.

In all fairness, the overall linguistic aims of the IME movement would seem to me at least to be outside of the remitt of the Dept., perhaps it is hardly surprising that they focus purely on ‘educational’ matters?

If Irish speaking families and inclusivity were a DE stated objective, then how would the initial review report stack up?. Well for example the report proposed a whole range of Irish medium types which would result in deviating from the internationally proven and most effective form already practised here, this hardly makes sense.

This brings us to a major flaw of the report which was further outlined by DE staff when they consulted on the document within the community. That is, the report does not recognise fluency in Irish as an educational outcome, sure GCSE’s, A Levels etc are counted but this is a far cry from recognising the skill as opposed to only the exam. Could we image anyone not recognising functional and communicational skill in English as an educational outcome?.

This underlying lack of understanding of bilingual outcomes that permeate the sector is the ‘achilles heel’ of the whole report. Simple it does not place the Irish-Medium Education in its real world and linguistic context. Another example of this is the discussion around streams and units at post primary schools which are proposed in the report as viable options. Research from Canada shows that the number of hours in which a child is taught through the target language (in our case Irish) is important in maintaining and nurturing fluency in the second language in post primary. Jim Cummins one of the leading world experts in this field also adds to the debate saying that if language ability and use is a desired outcome of education then less intensive provisions are unlikely meet the needs while more intensive systems are likely to be better without negative impact on English. Indeed it seems a glaring omission that few if any international researches in the areas of bilingualism have been consulted in the Irish-medium review process.

I have to admitt that I constantly find myself pointing out to Irish language activists that the the overall education of the children trumps, in my view, judgements of IME based purely on degree on fluency in Irish, though this is not the point being argued, and argued well here.

A question also remains in relation to inclusivity, while it is a right of each Irish-Medium school to set its own religious ethos, it seems strange that the only place that offers Irish-Medium teacher training is in a Catholic teaching college and while that course may be open to people of all backgrounds, it will still be another hurdle for those in the non-Catholic community to cross, hardly a great start to a ‘Shared Future’.

My primary concern would be that the Catholic Church, traditionally the most effective of all the enemies Gaelic culture faces, controls the supply of teachers, thus controlling the growth of the sector.

The cynic in me would have to point out that I do not believe that the mooted ‘shared future’ envisages a place for Irish medium education.

However, extra training provision for Gaelscoil teachers outside of St. Mary’s will have to be vigourously worked for.

The consultation report looks at the needs of the Irish-medium sector as if it where any other sector, this must be welcomed because it seeks to look at some of the basic requirements which have been long neglected. The downside of the Review is that is that so far it has failed to really grasp what the sector is about and this lack of understanding and lack of robust research are a major weakness. Internal research tells us time and time again that political understanding and will towards indigenous language is one of the greatest factors in its success or failure, it remains to be seen if the Irish-medium review will stand that litmus test.

I would agree with the last line, however the Gaelscoil movement in the North has prospered in the face of hostility from the state for many years, that political ‘understanding and will’ is unlikely ever to come about, and the Gaelscoil movement will have to relearn to turn that adversity into advantage as in the past.

  • Piobaire Breac

    This is true. It seems that the leadership of Irish language education in the north has lost its way. Indeed the review while offering an opportunity may not have any real benefit. The real reason for this is that body setup to support the sector is chronically weak and without a vision.
    There are more people working to support the sector now than ever but gains are not great. The reason is that the leadership of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta spend most of their time shuffling paper instead of engaging with the community.

    Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta is acting more as a civil service body than an innovative agency that shows leadership, provides valuable support and work with its schools. Meaningful work is at an all time low and this only demoralizes everyone.

    Comhairle proves the point, resources are only valuable when you have the correct leadership to use them…and at present leadership, vision and effective action are sadly lacking!

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta is acting more as a civil service body than an innovative agency”

    But that is what it is supposed to be.

    It is hardly Comhairle’s fault that there is no Irish language movement outwith officialdom to push for IME.

    That is whats needed, back to basics, voluntary work on the ground, Comhairle do not prevent this.

  • piobaire Breac


    Comhairle is actually not a civil service body, but DOES unfortunately act as one. Look at the other innovative bodies like NICIE for integrated education, they are not held back like Comhairle and they are funded in the same way!.

    The bottom line Mr Gael gan nire, is that there are loads of Irish language groups doing great stuff but the Department only listens to Comhairle…why?…cause they set it up!.

    The fact is Comhairle do not support Irish Medium Schools and communities as they should, indeed in some cases.. they have fought to stop schools.. some of which eventually broke through and made it anyway. And then Comhairle claimed they always supported them!.

    We need leadership and when our leaders don’t lead we are not allowed to criticize, seems a bit strange. Let me guess, do you work for an large Irish language schools body?


  • Gael gan Náire

    “Let me guess, do you work for an large Irish language schools body?”


    I just don’t blame them for the fact that there is no voluntary group lobbying and harrasing them from the outside.

    Both are needed.

    “we are not allowed to criticize”

    You have just done it because I created a small oppurtunity for you to do so.

  • Piobaire Breac

    I agree my friend, but the point here is that we all have the responsibility to question.
    Many people are doing their best, but to be honest at this stage Irish Medium Education offers the most effective way forward for the language, not the only way but the most effective. This is why the review on Irish language schools is important and the role of Irish schools bodies is central, however frankly they are not playing a lead role at present.

    I don’t think anyone could argue with that.

    For the rest of us we will do our best for our kids and our communities…that all we can do.

  • Dewi

    There’s been Welsh schools in Argentina for about 10 years now…and they come up with the above – cool or what?

    (sorry slightly off topic – but only just)

  • Gael gan Náire

    I surprised no one has mentioned a re-invigoration of the Gaeloiliúint?

    I would be very much in favour of this but only if it was fully open to membership and democratically run.

    It could be the compliment that CnaG needs.

    I would also like to point out, though I have no time for debate today, that my own experience of CnaG has been a very positive one – go raibh maith agaibh!

  • Piobaire Breac

    If your experience has been positive it would seem that you have not been trying to setup a school… Ask someone who is on the ground.

  • Gael gan Náire

    Piobaire Breac,

    I have spent a considerable time at the front and have the scars to show it.

    But I am battle harded enough to know that Staff Officers have their jobs to do as well as those of us who toil at that front.

    I also appreciate that some had resposiblity for the entire line, not just my little piece of it.

  • Re

    Comhairle was set up with one purpose by the Sinn Fein Minister of Education at the time and that was to destroy the community organisation that helped found in conjunction with many local communities six dosen gael schools, Gaeloiliuint. There was absolutely no debate about this by any member of the Board of Comhairle at the time.
    Gaeloiliunit was apparently a threat to both Sinn Fein and the Catholic Chruch. It was democracy in action and not under the control of powerful outside vested interests.
    Comhairle was effectvely set up using deceit and fraud. We are reaping the dead harvest of the rotten seed planted almost a decade ago.
    The GFA committed to “robust action” to develop the Irish language. We now know that was a deliberate deceit and fraud.
    Comhairle has done everything it can to wipe out the language and sectarianise the language denying all Protestants and Presbyterians the opportunity to learn their native language. Thousands of children have likewise been denied the right to learn and speak their native language.
    Ulster is now in a terrible economic situation in part because of the civil service fraud committed a decade ago against the language.
    The chickens have come home to roost and everyone is in denial.
    Decommission Comhairle and start anew.

  • Piobaire Breac

    Hey Re….it seems to me that you may be suffering from a wee bit of paranoia. It is intense rants like this the diminish us all. I know I have a point but the stuff you are coming out with is OTT. Man steady your head.

  • Gael gan Náire


    “Comhairle was set up with one purpose by the Sinn Fein Minister of Education .. Gaeloiliuint.”

    Actually wasnt it a legislative neccessity under the Education Order (Northern Ireland) 1998?

    “Comhairle has done everything it can to wipe out the language and sectarianise the language denying all Protestants and Presbyterians the opportunity to learn their native language.”

    You suggest that thousands of Protestant children were lining up to go to IME but for the intervention of Comhairle? Somewhat unlikely in my view.

    I put it to you that there are more children in IME than ever before, the sector goes from strenght to strenght with every passing year, I further put it to you that all but one IME school has official recongition.

    Your thesis that Comhairle is an anti-Irish language conspiracy does not seem to hold water.

    Comhairle na Gaelscolaíocht do not do anything to prevent Gaeloiliúint nor any other body operating to promote Irish medium education.

    My suggestion is that people get together and form a volunatary organistaion outwith officialdom to promote IME.

  • Réamaí Mathers

    A chairde,

    Is maith liom bhur bpaisean…I like your passion, however there is alot to be celebrated in Gaelic Medium Education. Also while it does seem that many of the initial points in the first article may have some basis, also I understand peoples frustration at times. The only way however to solve issues is through engagement. If you have an issue bring it to the table with the groups you have problems with. That how the world works
    Cuirim fáilte roimh an díospóireacht.


  • Re

    The then Minister for Education, Martin McGuinness, told Gaeloiliuint to either “take it or leave it” concerning the formation of Gaeloiliunit.
    In Sinn Fein terminology, this was called a “hijacking,” a very accurate description.
    Look at the drop in students attending IME since the formation of Comhairle. Look at the number of schools shut down and others stopped from opening by Comhairle. Gaeloiliuint never ever shut down a school it helped open. How many children have been deliberately denied an education in their native tongue.
    Look at the cross community university at Springvale, An Bradan Feasa. Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church used Comhairle and Foras to block all funding to An Bradan Feasa, and thereby, deliberately destroy a serious cross community peace initiative in 2003-04 that was a challenge to the hypocrisy and control of both.
    This was all about sectarian control and keeping poor people in their places.
    How many Protestants work for Comhairle?
    Look at the massive dammage Comhairle has done to Derry. Look at mid-Ulster and Cookstown. Comhairle shut down the meanscoil in Derry and refuses to support Colaiste Speirin in Cookstown.
    Comhairle is a blood sucking parasite trying to kill off the Irish language for the benefit of Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church.

    P.S. We have given up on officialdom. Decommission Comhairle along with their political and clerical masters now.

  • Gael gan Náire

    “Look at the drop in students attending IME since the formation of Comhairle”

    This is simply incorrect.

  • Re

    After Comhairle was founded, at the insistence of the Chairman of the Board, it put together a 10 year strategic plan to open 60 new schools.
    What happened?
    Comhairle immediately binned the strategic plan because the plan was solely intended to be a PR ruse and nothing else by its CEO.
    The Chair of the Board quit in disgust soon after.
    There should have been double the number of students now attending gaelscoileanna from all sections of the community as opposed to when Comhairle was established
    There should have been heavy cross-community patronage of the schools.
    Comhairle only follows the sectarian dictates of the Catholic Church and wants nothing to do with the Protestant community.
    Comhairle is an illegitmate pretender to the throne. It has no vison, no courage, no nothing.
    Comhairle was set up to destroy Gaeloiliuint and to deny a bright shared future to working class Catholics and Protestants.
    Comhairle practices failure. Gaeloiliuint only practiced success – six dosen schools and the beginnings of a community university and that was just the start till Comhairle came along.

  • Piobaire Breac

    Change the record…..Re do you think this kind of rant actually achieves anything? Good man! you have changed a perhaps useful discussion into a rant!. Is suppose MI5, the secret service, CIA, FBI the Russian Mafia are also involved with the international conspiracy against not what seems to be Irish education but Gaeloiliunt!. Perhaps one of them shot Kennedy to stop Irish education.
    Rants like this only lessen points you may or may not have and give people the excuse to rubbish your argument and everyone else’s who may agree with you in some areas…[We’ll have none of that now! Ed.]. Be that true or not man, this kind of tack doesn’t work and is not helpful. So if you want to actually help make your points and leave the venom at home.

  • Gael gan Náire


    It is an important debate which needs a high quality of debate.

    Do you think that the party press officers having a glance at slugger this morning are going to be influenced by anything else?

    I suggest if you wish the minister of education to take a more decerning eye on the advice from comhairle, as eye do, that one makes an effort.

    Anti-SF rants, for example, are unlikely to disturb her, an Irish speaker who sent her own kids to a Gaelscoil, and someone who has on occasion defied Comhairle’s advices and given recongition to a school.

  • Re

    Piobaire Breac,
    Perhaps you might kindly explore the serious conflicts of interests with the establishment of Comhairle and the selection of its CEO.
    Why was the CEO on the Ulster Trust on the interviewing panel for the CEO of Comhairle when the person being interviewed for the Comhairle CEO position was sitting on the Board of Governors of the same Ulster Trust? Is that not considered a serious conflict of interest?
    Why then was the wife of the CEO of the Ulster Trust also on the same interviewing panel, each sitting at both ends of the interviewing table? Is that not considered a doubly serious conflict of interest?
    Is it not a short leap to assume that the CEO of Comhairle may have been given direction on what to expect question wise from the interviewing panel?
    [no chance Re., can’t allow that. Ed.]
    Comhairle was set up by Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein, and the Catholic Church to wipe out the Irish language. Comhairle’s most undistinguished track record since its founding have proved that beyond any legal shadow of the doubt.
    This is not a “rant.” This is a little something called truth. Perhaps it is destasteful and offensive to the civil service.
    Many working class Protestant and Catholic families have very sadly paid the price for this chicanery, deception, and fraud against the Irish language.
    Please decommision this fraudulent entity called Comhairle now and end the current mockery.
    Protestants have an equal right to the language. It is equally part of our heritage. Please give it back.

  • Piobaire Breac

    Ok this debate is over as far as I am concerned. Re has turned the thing into a farce…it seems the rant is more important than the outcome…If you read above I came here to make some points. I now feel embarrassed to be on the same page as you matey. You have undermined any useful debate that could have been made that effects real people. So how does that help…But I suppose blind rage is what it is BLIND

    Slán I’m gone!

  • Re

    Piobaire Breac,
    There are builders, and then there are destroyers.
    I have built for more years than you can imagine. A lot of other very fine people and communities have likewise spent many years building too in extreme difficulties, and in recent years because of Comhairle’s actions specifically. A lot of people have made huge sacrifices for the common good.
    Comhairle was set up under fraudulent pretenses by Martin McGuinness and the civil service. No one denies that. This is not anti-Sinn Fein. It is simply a fact of history.
    The history of Comhairle is anti-community, anti-Protestant, anit-initiative, anti-results, anti-courage, and purely sectarian.
    Comhairle serves no useful public purpose and is a waste of valuable public money, especially in this global recession.
    When the civil service cannot defend its actions, they accuse people of engaging in a rant or a farce. You can only defend the indefenceable by side-stepping the truth and attacking those who dare speak truth to power.
    Those who work and toil for the betterment of the community do not have the luxury of cushy civil service jobs.
    I have asked several pertinent questions and there have been no specific replies to refute the accuracy of the questions.
    Decommission Comhairle and let us all move into a shared future without interference from political or religious entities.
    Comhairle was a huge step backwards into the Dark Ages.

  • Re

    Caisc shona faoi!