Adjournment Matters. - Limerick Gael Campus.

Wednesday, 1 March 1995

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 142 No. 3

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Ms Kelly: Information on Mary Kelly  Zoom on Mary Kelly  I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Alien to the House. I want to speak about the Gael campus for Gaelscoil Uí Dhoghair and the Gaelcholáiste in Caisleán Nua Thiar.

Tá an-suim ag muiuntir Chaisleáin Nua Thiar sa Ghaeilge. Tá coiste Chonradh na Gaeilge an-láidir sa bhaile. Gach seachtain bíonn fógraí pobail sna nuachtáin áitiúla as Gaeilge. Deirtear go bhfuil cultúr na Gaeilge, damhsa, siamsa agus ceol go han-bheo sa cheantar agus dá bhrí sin ní raibh aon athbheochan den teanga ann mar nach raibh aon bhás.

Ní raibh iontas ar duine ar bith nuair a bunaíodh Gaelscoil Uí Dhoghair i 1985. Ón am sin tá an scoil ag dul ó fheabhas go feabhas. Anois tá ocht muinteoir agus 225 dalta sa scoil. I 1993 bunaíodh an Gaelcholáiste i dteach cónaithe atá athraithe ina scoil ag an vocational education committee. I mbliana tá 22 dalta ag freastal air. Tá an Gaelscoil suite i lárionad pobail agus i bhfoirgnimh réamhthógtha i gclós an lárionaid. Níl sé sin oiriúnach ar chor ar bith.

The Gaelscoil, as I said, is situated in the local community centre and in the prefabs located around the school. It is currently under threat of eviction because the prefabs have limited planning permission and the authority is desperately looking for an alternative site. There are currently 225 pupils and 24 pupils were refused admission last September because of a lack of space.

There can be no doubt that there is a great deal of interest in the Irish language in the area and the pupils come not only from the town but from a radius of 15 to 20 miles. It has now reached a crisis stage and children are being denied basic facilities. The same is true [374] of the Gaelcholáiste which is located in a converted house. It has a projected pupil population of 41 next September.

The idea is that a Gael campus could accommodate the Gaelscoil and the Gaelcholáiste, a naonra for the young children and perhaps some element of Outreach adult education. The Department oftered the Gaelscoil £30,000 for a site. There were not too many suitable sites available in the town at that price or, when a suitable site was found, other factors deemed it unsuitable. For example, one site was suitable, but the asking price doubled once the seller heard that the Department of Education wanted to buy it. This site is publicly owned by Shannon Development and it has easy access to other community facilities, such as a vocational school, a library and an open air swimming pool. The Courtney boys school is also close by. I urge the Minister to consider the concept of a combined Gaelscoil and Gaelcholáiste as a suitable development. This Gaelscoil has been successfully twinned with schools in Chartres en Bretagne in France. It is known there as l'école Gaelique and French is also taught in the school.

I would like to share my time with Senator Neville.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Neville: Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  I support Senator Kelly and I urge the Minister of State, Deputy Allen, to assist the Gaelscoil and Gaelcholáiste. It is a worthy project. I am fully aware of the excellent work done by the community in Newcastlewest for an teanga Gaelach. Senator Kelly has put an excellent case to the Minister who, I am sure, will be understanding.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Allen): Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil leis na Seanadóirí as ucht an t-ábhar seo a árdú anocht.

Senator Kelly said since the language never died in Newcastlewest, a revival is not taking place. Newcastlewest has [375] been to the forefront in the encouragement and development of all-Irish education. Gaelscoil Uí Dhoghair, the all-Irish primary school, opened in Newcastlewest in 1985. With the first intake of pupils due to leave the Gaelscoil in 1993, the Department approved the provision of an all-Irish post-primary facility — a unit attached to the vocational school — with effect from September 1993. As Senator Kelly said, there are now more than 200 pupils in the Gaelscoil — she mentioned 225 — and over 20 pupils in the post-primary unit in its second year of operation. Both the Gaelscoil and the unit are at present accommodated separately in rented premises which the Department does not consider to be satisfactory for use in the long term. As regards to Gaelscoil Uí Dhoghair, therefore, the Department, with the school authorities has been trying to identify and secure a suitable site. A number of sites were inspected but proved either unsuitable or unavailable.

As regards the all-Irish post-primary unit, its operation runs for a six year period initially, during which time its long term viability will be assessed. It had been anticipated that the planning of additional accommodation for the vocational school at Newcastlewest, which has been under discussion [376] between the Department and County Limerick vocational education committee, would take into account the needs of the all-Irish unit. A proposal has now been submitted to the Department jointly by the Gaelscoil Uí Dhoghair authorities and County Limerick vocational education committee to the effect that the provision of all-Irish education in Newcastlewest, primary and post-primary, should be located on one site in new, permanent accommodation. A potential, suitable site for such a development has been identified locally.

There is one such development already in operation in Clondalkin, County Dublin, where Gaelscoil Cluain Dolcáin and Coláiste Chillian share the same building and campus; the merits of such an arrangement are characterised by the continuity of educational provision and the maintenance of an all-Irish ethos.

My Department is currently assessing the feasibility of the proposal for the future provision of all-Irish education in Newcastlewest. Of necessity, the assessment involves consideration of the proposal by a number of sections within the Department. I hope, however, that the Department will be in a position to respond shortly.

The Seanad adjourned at 9.45 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 2 March 1995.

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