The Department of Education failed to meet its legal duties when it did not provide for demand for Irish-language education in deciding the patron of a new Dublin school, an Irish language commissioner investigation found.
Following An Coimisinéir Teanga Rónán Ó Domhnaill’s probe last year, he said the department is now going to recommend the patronage of another new school being established in the same Drumcondra/Marino area be awarded to An Foras Pátrúnachta.
Its proposal to be patron to a gaelscoil in the same part of Dublin’s north city was beaten by multi-denominational patron body, Educate Together, following a survey of local parents in 2016. The exercise was run by the department as one of several areas where it wanted to establish parental demand for the patronage of new schools being opened to cater for growing local populations.
Mr Ó Domhnaill received a number of complaints about Education Minister Richard Bruton’s decision not to award patronage for an all-Irish multi-denominational school to be established in Drumcondra/Marino, when the parents of 361 children had demonstrated their preference for such provision.
Although the 1998 Education Act does not directly provide for provision of all-Irish education, it does require regard be given to the law’s objectives in relation to the Irish language.
The Department had denied breaching any of those objectives and told the investigation that four of the 22 new primary schools established since it began the patron selection process in 2011 are all-Irish schools. It said there are three all-Irish schools in the area, but Mr Ó Domhnaill’s 2017 annual report points out these are all Catholic schools whereas An Foras Pátrúnachta was proposing a multi-denominational school.
He found that the department’s patron selection process did not fulfil the Education Act’s language provisions, and that the approach did not accord with the objectives about development of all-Irish education in national policies on the extension of bilingualism.
“The problem with the system which had been put in place by the Department was that it did not succeed in accommodating that demand to support the realisation of the State’s policy in respect of the promotion of bilingualism in the country.”
Mr Ó Domhnaill welcomed the Department’s intention, notified to him last month, to recommend a new primary school planned in Drumcondra/Marino be a multi-denominational gaelscoil with An Foras Pátrúnachta as patron. He praised proposed changes to the selection process that will mean two separate schools will be established if demand for Irish-medium education from local parents passes a certain threshold.
“The percentage decided upon needs to make a significant difference in respect of the building of new Irish-medium schools, and it should be agreed as soon as possible,” he said.
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