Row over lack of Irish-language teaching in Irish-medium unit

Row over lack of Irish-language teaching in Irish-medium unit
Students of Coláiste Lú, Dundalk, along with parents walk from the school to the LMETB offices to protest about being forced to learn in English. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

The Department of Education has been called on to intervene in a dispute at an Irish-medium unit in Louth where parents say their children are not being taught in Irish.

On Thursday, students at Coláiste Lú walked out of their school in Dundalk to protest with their parents.

According to the Department of Education, Coláiste Lú currently operates as an aonad (an Irish-medium unit) within Coláiste Chú Chulainn, an English-medium school.

However, according to the Coláiste Lú parents’ council, some of their children’s classes have recently been integrated with Coláiste Chú Chulainn.

The majority of Coláiste Lú students are only being taught Irish through the medium of Irish, with first-year pupils receiving lessons in Irish and geography as Gaeilge, according to Aidan Kinsella, secretary of the Coláiste Lú Parents Council.

"There had been a precedent set that our children would be taught in Irish," Mr Kinsella said, adding that students returned to school on Friday but that the group has not ruled out further action. This includes requesting an appropriate investigation into the issues raised or potential rights infringed and may include a High Court application, he added.

The parents had previously sought assurances from the school’s management and patron, the Louth and Meath Education & Training Board (LMETB) that measures would be put in place to protect the Irish-language ethos of the school.

That is according to Blathnaid ní Ghréacháin, chief executive of Gaeloideachas.

“However, the agreed measures were not implemented and they’ve lost students as a result, and are in danger of losing more," Ms ní Ghréacháin added.

“As an ‘aonad’, Coláiste Lú is utterly dependent on the resources and goodwill of the English-medium school in which it’s located and this makes it extremely vulnerable. It will be impossible to regain public confidence in Coláiste Lú if we can’t secure its future, and it needs to have independent school status for that to happen."

A spokesman for the Department of Education said that operational matters relating to Coláiste Lú are a matter for school authorities to manage in the first instance, in accordance with available resources and any relevant regulations. The Department of Education understands that the ETB has had ongoing contact with the school concerned, a spokesman for the department confirmed.

Representatives from LMETB had not answered a request for comment at the time of going to print.

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