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Government attack on Irish Language would make Deputies of the first Dáil turn in their graves

26 January, 2009 - by Pearse Doherty TD

Senator Pearse Doherty has this morning called on the Minister for Education Batt O’Keeffe to withdraw his department’s circular 0044/2007 which seeks to end the total immersion method of teaching in Gaelscoileanna so that the unnecessary and costly legal challenge being brought against the Department by Irish Language campaigners can be withdrawn.

The Donegal Senator said:

“In 2007 the Department of Education issued a circular to all Gaelscoileanna instructing them to end the total immersion method of education which they practice. Two years on and despite numerous reports and relentless efforts by teachers, students and parents to have this circular withdrawn Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe continues to ignore the strong and blatant opposition to his departments measure.

“All international research points irrevocably to the fact that early total immersion produces significant benefits, not only for the minority language but also for the overall educational rounding of children.

“Recent research conducted by Donal O hAinifein, Principal of Gaelscoil Mhichil Chiosoig, Ennis, Co Clare, who is also the parents' representative on the Irish language education advisory body COGG, evidences these benefits and it refutes the notion often trotted out by the department that immersion education damages English learning. This is simply not the case.

“Donal O hAinifein’s research surveyed the English reading attainment tests of 3,298 children in Gaelscoileanna at the end of the 2nd and 5th classes in the last academic year.  At the end of 2nd class it showed that the equivalent score achieved by the top 33% of children nationally was attained by no less than 43% of children who had enjoyed at least one full year’s early total immersion in Irish.

“The Department of Education, under the watchful eye of Batt O’Keeffe, seems intent on putting the final nail in the coffin of Tumoideachas. It is deeply sad for both the language and its historical importance that Irish language campaigners have been left with no option but to legally challenge the government on its decision to undermine the language. Their case is due before the court over the coming weeks. It is particularly sad in the context of last week’s ‘An Chéad Dáil’ 90th anniversary celebrations. The promotion and protection of the Irish language was one of the political cornerstones that brought together the brave men and women of 1919.

“It is nothing short of a scandal that tax-payers money is now to be squandered on defending this blatant attack on the Irish language by the state itself. Minister O’Keeffe’s time and indeed his department’s money would be far better sent replacing the rotten prefabs that litter our education system or aiding special needs children.

“I am calling on the Minister for Education to do the right thing by the Irish language and to withdraw circular 0044/2007 so as to avoid this needless and indeed costly court case. Sinn Féin believes that education is a fundamental right and the Irish people have a right to educated in their native tongue.” ENDS

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