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Sinn Fein attacks British Government over attempts to devalue Irish Language

9 February, 2006

Sinn Féin's Education Spokesperson Michael Ferguson MLA has expressed dismay at the devaluing of the Irish Language in the British Government's Education (NI) Order 2006 and claimed that it will be detrimental to the future development of the language.

Commenting today at a meeting of the Party's Education Advisory Forum Mr Ferguson said:

"Sinn Féin have been to the forefront of defending the new post primary transfer procedures because the system will offer a quality education through equality of access. We have also defended the new curriculum because it widens entitlement by offering every young person a choice of 24 subjects at the age of 14.

"However, Article 18D of the Education Order 2006 coving choice of languages which states, 'At least one shall be a course in an 'official language of the EC' (other than English and Irish)' undermines the teaching of Irish in our schools..

"While all other sectors are experiencing falling rolls the Irish Medium sector, which is the most dynamic growth sector in education, has ever increasing rolls. In a society that has a growing Irish-medium sector and an ever-increasing number of Irish speakers this curriculum change will act as a barrier to children taking Irish as a subject in the English-speaking sector.

"The devaluing the Irish language in English medium schools will be detrimental to the future development of the language.  It will undermine the efforts of the Irish speaking community to promote Irish among children in English-medium schools and further alienate those who would want their children to have some knowledge of their native language.

"A school must be about more than preparing children for the work place. Those parts of the curriculum that help develop their social well-being, sporting endeavours and inter-personal relationships, their sense of their own history and identity will be lost in the pursuit of delivering work ready young adults.

"The Irish language is an integral part of our identity and we need to ensure that it is at least recognized as such by our children in our own schools with it's place secured as a part of the curriculum dealing with equality of access.  If we do not do this then we may perhaps prepare children for the workplace but we will not promote the personal development of complete persons with an understanding of their past and an appreciation
of their worth."ENDS

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