Simon Doyle in today’s Irish News carries the story of a family who are angry about not getting a place in the Irish language stream in St. Catherine’s Armagh (subs needed). The school has decided to limit its intake into the IME stream to 25 pupils per year, a figure which falls far short of the number of children emerging from IME in north Armagh, anyone with that figure should get in touch.
I have spent sometime speaking to pupils and parents on this situation and there is alot of frustration, anger and a sense of betrayal. Many have indicated that for them, IME means 4-18, not 4-11.
The finger is being pointed at the usual suspects, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta and the Minister of Education, though given that it appears to be a decision of the school’s board it is not immediately apparent what they can do with respect to Coláiste Catríona – they could however formulate an immediate plan to establish an independent Irish language secondary school in Armagh.
Above all the finger is being pointed at the Catholic Church, the most capable of all the Irish language’s opponents. The arguement being that the church has permitted the stream only in order to control the growth of IME. That is a charge they that will have to answer.
Most Irish speakers, activists and parents of Gaelscoil pupils take a pragmatic view as to whether stand alone schools or streams in English medium schools are the better option. My view is that by default stand alone schools are the better option but I would prefer to see a IM stream that not to have IME in an area at all.
In addition, I believe that in certain areas, the numbers may not be able to sustain a stand alone school longterm and that in areas of high social and economic deprevation the task of setting up a stand alone school can be very difficult.
However, the Coláiste Chaitríona debacle has delivered a death blow to arguements that streams are a good idea in themselves. One simply cannot depend on schools nor the Catholic Church to allow the streams to grow naturally and not interfere.
UPDATE : Readers may be interested in this story from the Irish News earlier in the week concerning the children of non-English speakers in IME.