The School, The Council and The Minister.

It seems apparent that Monday will see Bairbre de Brún will be elected as an MEP in Europe. Bairbre is well known as an Irish speaker and indeed activist, she will no doubt avail of the official status of Irish and use the language in the European Parliament.

Many Irish speakers in the Six Counties however will ask, what is the point when the struggle is at home?I have been contacted by a source working inside the Gaelscolaíocht movement with some information on the circumstances regarding Coláiste Speirín, the last Irish medium school in the North without statutory recognition.

A school which in the words of its principal, Mr Cathal Ó Donnghaile :

…is so close to achieving our goals and, still, they seem so elusive and far away. The financial situation in the school has always been very precarious but never so much as it is at present …Realistically, we have to survive for possibly another 4 to 6 months with no prospect of funding before the much-awaited breakthrough comes.

Unless we are supported now by a philanthropic benefactor, Coláiste Speirín will most likely cease to exist and the pupils will be split up and sent in their different directions. This would have a devastating knock-on effect on all current and future Irish-medium projects.

One leading member of Conradh na Gaeilge has contacted me with a very simple message : If the school is allowed to close … in the Six Counties it will be almost impossible to establish post primary Irish medium schools.

My source inside the Gaelscoil establishment in the North has usefully abbreviated the Coláiste Speirín saga to date, note, documentary evidence is available.

1. The committee of Coláiste Speirín was setup by CnaG around 2005 this was based on a paper that CnaG submitted to the Bains review on education in which they talked about all kinds of ways forward but NOT streams or units at post primary.

2. CnaG went through a full consultation with all Irish-medium primary schools at this time

3. CnaG then submitted the first development proposal and CEO supported the school in the press, which was for a satellite as part of Coláiste Feirste

4. The school was knocked back after intervention by the inspectorate (which was ill founded)

5. FIRST U-TURN CnaG then supported the school but a little later changed their minds and did not support the following development proposal. The SF minister rejected it stating at meetings that she would only listen to the advice from CnaG ( So defacto CnaG blocked it)

6. About a 18 months ago CnaG wrote a new policy stating that they were going with units in English schools and in a debate on RnaG the CEO said that they were not supporting Colaiste Speirín per say but were happy to help with policies but that they saw the future in units of English medium and not in Colaíste Speirín

7. SECOND UTURN A CnaG board meeting last week have u-turned again and want a free standing post primary school in Armagh BECAUSE the unit in Armagh has capped its intake and won’t play ball ( in any case it only offers a relatively small number of subjects through Irish)

8. Coláiste Feirste are currently working on a new way forward but CnaG is still not interested in Cookstown as a unit but wants to NOW to work with them on Armagh. Coláiste Feirste wants an equitable solution for all children while CnaG on the face of it appear to be partisan to one area??

This is a damning assessment of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the body charged with promoting Irish schools.

It has to be pointed out that many people working in Irish medium schools do however support the approach of CnaG in that they feel that in the past that Irish medium schools have been founded on top on one and another, which has affected adversely affected the intakes and growth of all of the schools.

In addition, many Irish speakers believe that in some areas and in some circumstances that Irish medium streams in English medium schools are the better options. Others will point out that the minister would have great difficulty ignoring the body set up by the Department of Education to promote Irish medium education (though she has chosen to do so in the past).

I have also been given information regarding Meánscoil Doire, the Irish medium secondary school in Derry which closed a number of years back. Meánscoil Doire did not have a high intake and has been described by my sources as ‘failing’, however it is understood a plan was in place :

CnaG in 2005 had a plan for Derry to move a failing CCMS and link it with Coláiste Feirste as part of a new federation. there was broad agreement in Derry which was ascertained by consultation by all parties and with Coláiste Féirste, the existing unit and the Bishop ( school Trustee)

In the interim the unit has closed and CnaG have not followed up on any of their plans leaving Derry without a post primary once again??

These comments are a pretty damning assessment of Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta which seems to be going the way of Foras na Gaeilge and completing losing any support from the Irish speaking community. The Minister must, if she wants to be remembered as one who worked for Irish medium education must take advices from beyond Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta.

She would be wise of course not to take counsel from her enemies but she would find supportive voices if she looked for them.

My port has always been a simple one, what did you expect? The Irish language movement on the ground must be rebuilt, free from the heroin of grants, and independent of political affiliations, and free from the influences of statutory bodies which are a part of the system, a system founded on Anglicisation.

I have been portrayed as a lunatic (and a gobshite probably) for the last ten years as I have constantly stated in meetings and in print – the government are not going to pay for the restoration of Irish. Voluntary work on the ground is what is needed. Many just do not want to know.

I hope however that circumstances can now be used as an aspiration to rebuild. Of course, there are those who are somewhat unhinged, carry personal grudges etc, but there exist a strong body of people beyond these willing and able.

Conradh na Gaeilge must be rebuilt in the North and beyond, a reinvigorated movement is needed, not a ‘well funded sector’, which translated from NIO speak simply means ‘bought and paid for’.

Remember, you can join the Conradh, you don’t havbe to apply for a job with them, you can set up your own cumann and work LOCALLY, for it is local activisim alone which makes the difference, be onto Eamó what ia Eamó’s and worry about the amount of Irish spoken in own townland.

For fifty years, older, wiser, activists have always warned younger activists against involvement in politics, constantly warning that the language will at some point be sacrificed by the nationalist parties faced with anglicising forces within their own parties and of course the absolute opposition to the language from unionists. Has this sacrifice come to pass?

Clearly, most Irish language groups are now utterly disillusioned by the process, to the delight of unionists and the DUP in particular. I doubt if the shared futurists will lose much sleep over us either.

Of course the small numbers of Irish speakers mean that they can have no realistic impact on the process ach an té nach bhfuil láidir, caithfidh sé a bheith glic.

Sin an rud, cha rabh muid riamh glic go dtí seo.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    SF seem to be the main target for “Irish Language activists” I see posting here on Slugger – to those not initimately acquainted with all the nuances (and no desire to be) that just seems silly as SF are the only party in Ireland North or South that I hear speaking Irish or trying to promote it.

    Tip: Whatever has been going on in Wales just copy that – that is before they got their Language act and more importantly if you do get one make sure to copy what they did afterwards.

  • 6countyprod

    ‘Bairbre de Brún … will no doubt avail of the official status of Irish and use the language in the European Parliament.’

    At least we know that tax payers’ money is being put to good use. Just think of all those Irish people who will be able to get jobs as translators for Bairbre as she speaks the mother tongue.

  • Gael gan Náire


    Sinn Féin are the largest national party, that is why they talk the flak.

    My post isnt aimed at Sinn Féin however and I remain convinced that the minister can be persuaded to change her mind.

    I constantly caution Irish language activitist that Sinn Féin are the largest party in the North and that it would be madness to alienate that party and its supporters (that is what some are trying to do of course) from the Irish language.

    That said, Sinn Féin do not expect uncritical support. People have legitamate expectations and demands. This issue as indicated is concerned with more than one school.

    In Wales, legislation etc followed 30 years of militancy, hunger strikes, hundreds in prison, solely on the language issue.

    This is only one Irish language militant group in Ireland who whilst active are low profile and are clearly focused on a long campaign rather than instant publicity.

  • RG Cuan

    There is superb work going on throughout the country – we now have more daily Irish speakers than at any time since the Famine – but, as always, more work needs to be carried out.

    Organisations like Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and Foras na Gaeilge will probably always have a less pro-active outlook than the actual Irish language community itself and therefore it’s up to the community to continuously push the boundaries and make progress.

    one Irish language militant group in Ireland

    Cad é?! Cé hiad seo?!

  • fin

    “legislation etc followed 30 years of militancy, hunger strikes, hundreds in prison,”

    That sounds very familiar

  • Feryu

    The situation is NOT the same as Wales since, let’s face it, the language is part of one community here and one descent group. It is therefore more akin to Gaelic in Scotland, where the majority of Scots are not of and don’t identify with the Gaelic tradition.

    This is all the more sensitive when we have a situation of all Ireland irredentism, hence unionists will fear that they may have their children undergo something akin to the Turkification of the Kurds if nationalists gain too much power and promote the language as universal, which is unlikely to occur re Gaelic in Scotland.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    If DUP are paralysed by the TUV vote and Stormo is collapsed ILA should be in the bag.


    there was considerable South Wales(and a lot of Irish descent) resistance to the Welsh language associated with the West and the North – but I agree with your substantive point – but that should not stop Wales being a model of excellence to copy.

  • Gael gan Náire


    Let us be be clear.

    I do accept that the people in FnaG and CnaG have their jobs to do and I condemn all attempts to divide our tiny community.

    I agree, its up to the community to provide the dynamics of change.

    Those working in FnaG and CnaG will be tied to a conservative outlook.

    C’est la vie.

  • SM

    Gael gan Nire

    You seem to speak a lot of sense on such issues, especially liked your phrase “the heroin of grants”. The only communities which survive are those which prosper independently – as soon as you take the public money you’re into activity-stifling bureaucratic monitoring yada-yada-yada, etc.

    Also it remains my hope that moderate elements within pro-union parties will move away from the traditional (and in my view retarded) position of being anti-Irish language. To take advantage of that make minimising the cost implications a major thrust of any proposed ILA as that will neuter the main non-sectarian argument against one.

    Go n’éirí an t-ádh leat 🙂

  • I don’t think minimising the cost implications of an irish Language Act should be the priority rather it should be ensuring that the bulk of investment is aimed at the cutting edge – the likes of the Irish Language Broadcast Fund, Raidio Failte and the Cultúrlann and Gaelscoileanna etc – rather than increasing Irish language bureaucracy. That means more and more people, including unionists, can access the Irish language (through the media).

    GGN may regard this as the heroin of grants – and I agree that has done great damage over the years both north and south as it has been used by authorities much like the pusher uses heroin – but I believe investment is needed to put the Irish language on a level playing field in the media and educational sectors in particular. Investment in such social capital will generate a return in terms of the betterment of society – I believe – and it’s a much better way of spending money than on translating annual reports and the like, which appears to be the emphasis south of the border.

  • ersehole

    Bhuel, aontaím le do chuir chuige go ginereálta GGN, mar is iondúil.

    Ach, ní cheart dúinn a bheith ‘precious’ maidir le foinsí airgead agus urraíocht. Breathnaigh mar shampla ag TG4. Go leor déanta ar son na teanga dhá bharr airgead caite (mórán) go maith.

    D’aire mé go raibh cruinniu ag SF le gairid i nGaoth Dobhair agus i nBéarla a bhí sé rite.

  • Piobaire Breac

    It seems strange that an Irish language body that is tasked with the future of the Irish language schools would not be better focused but then that appears to be the ongoing pattern over many years…… The question must be does anyone with influence actually care?

  • Gael gan Náire


    Anymore details of this meeting?

    Dear All,

    What about the subject of the post?

  • ersehole

    Bhí litir i bhFoinse coicís ó shin mar gheall air.Scríofa ag Donncha Ó hÉallaithe. Níl fáil air ar shuíomh Fhoinse.

    Más fíor é, tá SF ag loirg cearta sibhialta do Ghaeilgeoraí ó Thuaidh agus, ag an am céanna, ag brú Béarla ar phobal Ghaelach ó Dheas.

  • Is cosúil nach mbeidh Foinse ann go luath, mura mbionn athrú súntasach chun feabhais ar an gconradh atá á thairiscint ag Foras na Gaeilge don nuachtán. Deir Pádraig Ó Céidigh, agus é ag caint ar Nuacht TG4 aréir, go mbeidh an eagrán dheireannach ann an tseachtain seo nó an tseachtain seo chugainn. Tá cruinniu inniu idir an Fhoras agus Foinse chun an ‘conradh a phle’.

    De réir dealraimh caitheadh Piaras Ó Dochartaigh amach as an Seanad inné nuair a bhí sé déanamh raice faoin bpriacal ina bhfuil Foinse. Ba thúisce aige, b’fhéidir, glaoch a chur ar a chomhleacaithe phairtí ar bhord an Fhorais – ceathrar acu – agus féachaint an féidir leo teacht i gcabhair ar an nuachtán seachtainiúil seo.

    Tuilleadh eolais;

    {English version]

  • Gael gan Náire

    Minister approves two nursery schools.

  • Roy Batty

    Funny how many people spell it de Bruin which is the Dutch way.