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Rights of Irish - medium schools should be respected and supported - Ruane

24 June, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Minister Caitríona Ruane has strongly defended the rights of the Irish-medium education sector to receive government support.

The minister was speaking during an Assembly debate on Development Proposals for new Controlled, Maintained, Integrated and Irish-Medium schools. The minister said: "This Motion is based on a false premise that I have not considered proposals for new schools in controlled, maintained and integrated sectors. The fact is that there have been no such proposals for new schools in the controlled or maintained sectors. There has only been one proposal for a new integrated school in the past year, the establishment of Blackwater Integrated College, which I approved.

"I have a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the Irish medium and integrated sectors. Demand for both is growing in a schools' population that is in overall decline, which is why I support relevant proposals."

The minister outlined the process for approval of Development Proposals, which are initiated by the local Education and Library Board, the Trustees, the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, the Council for Integrated Education, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, or an individual school or other interested party. The publication of a Development Proposal initiates a two month consultation period, following which the Minister decides on the proposal.

The Minister continued:

"Since I became Minister of Education, I have taken decisions on 37 proposals. None of them were for new controlled or maintained schools. My decision to support Gaelscoil na Daróige was taken following my careful consideration of all the information available. In the event, the school did not achieve the required intake numbers, so no funding was provided.

"This is the fourth such debate on Irish-medium education over the past year. It is becoming clear that some from the Unionist tradition do not want to give any rights to those in the Irish-medium sector.

"I have recently officiated at the openings of new premises for three Irish-medium schools. Several of these were attended by members of the Unionist and Protestant communities who have shown a sense of generosity that could act as examples to others. I wish these new schools well for the future as they help to deliver a quality education for our children.

"I will continue to examine each and every proposal fairly and on its merits, irrespective of the sector from which it originates." ENDS

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