As we all know, secondary school can be a stressful enough time for students and today, the pupils & parents are going to the Dáil to appeal to the Minister to save our Irish medium education in Co Louth. Coláiste Lú is the only Irish speaking post-primary college, Gaelscoil (Irish language school) from Belfast to Balbriggan & has run successfully since 2013 when it first opened. They want to appeal to Joe McHugh, Minister of Education, to consider approving initiatives that could save Irish medium education in Louth.
Parents feel that following a meeting between a parents’ delegation, LMETB and school management on 18th Sept, unilateral action that was taken without consultation or notification, by school management and/or the patron, (LMETB), has resulted in a further reduction in commitment to Irish medium education; namely
• The removal and attempted online eradication of the identity of Coláiste Lú
• The adoption by the Board of Management of a revised School Admissions Policy, which reduces any commitment to Irish medium education to effectively nothing
Declan Breathnach, TD, talking to some of the pupils of Coláiste Lú at their recent rally in Dundalk to celebrate the Irish language & culture
This is the letter that they will give to the Minister today:
Minister, a chara,
The parents of children still attending Coláiste Lú know that they have to thank their predecessors who waged a long campaign that resulted in a deep immersion Irish Gael choláiste being approved and opened in Dundalk in 2013. Within a few weeks of it opening the patron – LMETB – then announced to them that it was being downgraded to an aonad. Parents were furious, but ultimately powerless and were forced to accept the new reality imposed by a state body. To give due credit to LMETB, for the next 5 years Coláiste Lú was operated as the CEO of LMETB promised and we are extremely proud that some of our children received the tangible benefits of deep immersion Irish medium education.
Latent fears turned into horrible reality in the new 2019-20 school year when the school management and patron reneged on commitments which resulted in a new reality that they wanted us to accept, namely that there was no longer to be any meaningful Irish medium education. Since then, our attempts to raise the issue with the LMETB have resulted in a single inconclusive meeting. However, instead of being provided with a commitment, or even an aspiration, to swiftly repair damage done to Coláiste Lú’s teaching capacity and build to create a Gael choláiste for the North East, parents were told that it wasn’t the patron’s fault, that bureaucratic process took precedence and that parents would effectively have to accept the new reality – again.
After the meeting, LMETB then erased the name ‘Coláiste Lú’ from their portfolio and adopted a new, openly discriminatory, school admissions policy. The actions of LMETB and school management demonstrate that pupils seeking Irish medium education in Co. Louth is now living in a very hostile environment.
Parents and children have not been consulted and feel that they have been shabbily treated by state institutions; at best they have been misled; at worst they have been lied to while ulterior agendas have been implemented. This has resulted in the hemorrhaging of pupils and many of the remaining parents are actively looking to move their children from the school. Parents do not want to be taking their children out of school to demonstrate; however, they feel that no one is listening, or cares, and are desperate for someone – anyone – to help.
We have been told that there are initiatives that have been recently put to officials in the Department of Education & Skills by other patron bodies. We would ask that you ensure that these initiatives, if feasible, are swiftly considered and rapidly approved this week for immediate implementation. These are not some dry dusty theoretical discussion papers; our children’s education and those of future children in the North East is at stake. Coláiste Lú is on the point of collapse and there is a very real risk that it will have ceased to exist by the end Oct 2019, as a result of having no pupils. Time is of the absolute essence. The opening of Coláiste Lú in 2013 was a significant event in the North East and was the culmination of a lot of campaigning and hard work.
If it closes, it will not be easily reopened.
It will affect and probably halt an aspirational initiative to expand 3rd level Irish medium capacity in Dundalk Institute of Technology by way of a BA (Hons) Irish degree offering. Our children will have been betrayed by the school management, the patron and ultimately by the state.
We beseech you to take action to save Irish medium education in Co Louth. If you do not take action, we will not be taking our children out of school again to highlight these broken promises. We have neither the time nor the energy, to fight against an uncaring system. The inertia of the status quo combined with the active hostility in some quarters will have broken our dream of educating our children through Irish.
Is mise le meas,
On behalf of the parents and children of Coláiste
Helena Mullins interviewing Proinsias Mac Ghirr of the Coláiste Lú parent’s committee recently
Another parent also sent a testimonial re Coláiste Lú.
“My daughter is a past pupil of Coláiste Lú. She and all the kids who were the initial class of students to enter the old ESB, Chapel St, Dundalk in September 2013 on the understanding that they were entering a future new secondary school have just completed their Leaving Certificate. After attending an English teaching primary school my daughter has developed an absolute passion for the Irish language and most of all for speaking the language which is what she enjoys most of all.
She has made friends through being an Irish speaker that she would not otherwise have got to know.
She has developed confidence through knowing that she can speak Irish.
She has formed valuable opinions on the best way to learn a new language ie through continual immersion listening & speaking the language.
She has linked her language to her native land, her native GAA games, its culture, and traditions, its people & she has developed a better understanding & appreciation of culture in general.
She attended an Irish speaking Secondary School – it existed and it functioned. To see that Secondary school disappear in the year following her departure will simply break her heart and the hearts of her classmates.
This part of her and all past student identities will be gone forever the school where she learned her language. That loss will stay with her forever – she will not be able to see the language passed on to future children, she will not be able to show her children the secondary school that she attended.”
If you missed the video of their rally recently in Dundalk you can check it out below. This school is part of their identity & to have that taken away is unthinkable. I hope they get the resolution that they deserve & have worked so hard for.