Wednesday, 31 March 1999
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. Costello: Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit don Teach arís agus mo bhuíochas le coiste meánscoil iar-thuasceart Baile Átha Cliath agus go mór mór Ray Ó Ceallaigh agus a chomhoibreoir i dtaobh an obair atá déanta acu ar feadh na blianta an scoil nua lán Ghaelach le dara leibhéal a bhunú in iar thuasceart Baile Átha Cliath.
Unfortunately, a second level school has not been provided yet, despite the number of years that the coiste has been endeavouring to establish one and the great need for a second level all-Irish institution. The stark reality is reflected in the statistics. There are 15 bunscoil lán-Ghaelach on the south side of Dublin while there are also six meánscoil. On the north side of Dublin there are 12 gaelscoil and two meánscoil. There is a substantial imbalance in the choice of second level schools available to the children of the northside and there is a need for a greater number of such schools.
The Department of Education and Science has dragged its feet on this matter. The two second level schools on the north side are Coláiste Mhuire in Parnell Square and Scoil Chaitríona in Glasnevin. Coláiste Mhuire is in need of major refurbishment which would cost in the region of £2 million and no such money has been forthcoming from the Department. It is hard to say that a level playing field is in operation on both sides of the river. There are 300 per cent more second level schools on the south side of Dublin.
The City of Dublin VEC indicated that it would be happy to be patron of a new second level school on the northside and gave carte blanche to the Department and the coiste involved in trying to establish one. That happened three years ago and there still has not been progress. The Minister indicated his support for such an institution but it seems to founder on the Department's view on what are the requirements for accommodation. It has refused a building that was identified on the basis that it would not be a long-term and permanent site for the new gaelscoil. However, it has not provided an alternative and does not seem to want to provide funding or a site for a new school.
We cannot continue indefinitely in limbo where pupils attend an all-Irish primary school and then find themselves with no choice but to go to an all English secondary school. That is not in accordance with the principle of cherishing all children equally or acknowledging the parents' right to choose the education of their first choice. They are clearly denied that and the Department has not come up with a good enough reason other than a lack of suitable accommodation. Why can the Department not go along with the site that was identified?
If the school were in operation for six years it would be possible to transfer to another site with  ample accommodation but the Department is not prepared to do this unless it can see the end result. It is not prepared to take any step and has not identified any school where there might be satisfactory accommodation, even though it has indicated it feels that there is adequate second level accommodation on the north side of the city and some disused accommodation that could be used.
However, it has not identified accommodation for an all-Irish school operating with a proper all-Irish ethos which requires certain physical traits so that one would be able to ensure pupils were attending an all-Irish institution and not a multilingual institution. The Minister gave a commitment in one of his last public utterances on the matter. He said that he would give a rún daingean, which is a powerful commitment, that before the 1999 school year the matter would be resolved.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Treacy): Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Seanadóir Costello an seans seo a bheith agam freagra a chur faoi bhráid an tSeanaid faoin dhá scoil lán-Gaelach dara leibhéal a chur ar fáil in oir-thuaisceart chathair Baile Átha Cliath. Tá an tAire Oideachas agus Eolaíochta, an Roinn agus an Rialtas lán sásta scoileanna lán-Ghaelacha a chur ar fáil i gceantar ar bith a bhfuil siad ag teastáil taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht muna bhfuil scoil eile sa cheantar.
Generally, parents whose children have attended all-Irish primary schools demand that similar provision be made available at second level. This demand is normally met through either the establishment of an independent all-Irish second level school, if it can be established that there is sufficient pupil demand to warrant it, or the establishment of an all-Irish unit attached to an existing second level school, usually a vocational school. The unit, while part of an existing school, operates in a semi-autonomous manner and has a teacher in charge. The unit is considered appropriate in areas where the number of pupils seeking an all-Irish education at second level would not be sufficient to warrant an independent school.
I láthar na huaire tá seirbhísí lán-Ghaelacha ar fáil do mhic léinn atá ag iarraidh oideachas dara leibhéal lán-Ghaelach i ndhá mhéanscoil sa cheantar. Tá na seirbhísí sin ar fáil i gColáiste Mhuire, Cearnóg Pharnell, Áth Cliath 1 agus i Scoil Chaitríona, Bothar Mobhí, Áth Cliath 9. Scoileanna comh-oideachais an dá cheann sin. Ina theannta sin, tá Coláiste Mhuire and Scoil Chaitríona ag freastal ar mhic léinn ó Contaetha An Mhí agus Cill Dara.
A proposal was received in our Department from a local group, An Fóchoiste Meánoideachais, and City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee regarding the provision of an all-Irish second level school in north-east Dublin. Intake  to the proposed school would come mainly from three Gaelscoileanna, Scoil Neasáin, Artane, Scoil Mide, Kilbarrack, and Scoil an Duinninigh, Swords. The proposed location for the school was a site adjacent to Scoil Neasáin in Artane.
In the light of this proposal, a review of the need for such facilities was carried out by the planning section of our Department. The result indicated a significant level of demand arising from increased provision at primary school level in this area in recent years. However, an assessment carried out by the technical staff of our Department revealed that, at 1.2 acres, the proposed site adjacent to Scoil Neasáin would be totally inadequate as a location for a new school building. In the interim, other options for the location of such a facility have been explored by our Department and there has been ongoing consultation with the VEC.
I am anxious that the most appropriate arrangements be made to enable this facility to commence. I assure the Senator and the House that our Department will continue to work with An Fóchoiste Meánoideachais and City of Dublin VEC to develop an appropriate response to the  demand for all-Irish education at second level in north-east Dublin at the earliest possible date.
Tréaslaím leis an Seanadóir toisc gur ardaigh sé an abhár seo. Tá spéis mór agam féin, agus tá sé de dhualgas orainn uilig atá togtha don Oireachtas, béim, tacaíocht agus cabhair a thabhairt don Ghaeilge. Tá sé de dhualgas orainn tacaíocht a thabhairt do thuismitheóirí, ceannasaithe an phobal agus mic léinn óga a bhfuil ag iarraidh scoileanna lán-Ghaelacha, agus geallaim go dhéanfaimid ár ndícheall chun an scoil sin a chur ar fáil chomh luath agus is féidir.
Mr. Costello: I am disappointed with the response. It almost seems as if we are going backwards. The “rún daingean” that the school would begin by September 1999 seems no longer valid. The Minister made a general statement that the Department might enable the facility to commence at some future date. Does the commitment to September 1999 still stand?
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