– Delay in Irish Language Education Centre testament to Govt Attitude to Irish Language
Speaking during a visit to the site of the proposed Irish Language Education Centre at Ballyvourney, Co Cork, the Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny TD has today said that the delay of more than six years in providing this centre is testament to the double standards of Fianna Fáil on the question of the Irish language. A PQ reply to Fine Gael confirmed that, up to 2005, €400,000 had been spent on the project.
“In June 2000, the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Education and Science came to Ballyvourney and turned the sod on what was to be a new Irish Language Education Centre – Ionad Náisiúnta Gaeilge. He committed to this centre being completed by mid 2001, and described the initiative as ‘one of the most significant developments in the history of Irish language education’.
“Significant? Yes. Delivered? No. The Irish Language Centre, promised in the 1997 Fianna Fáil and PD Programme for Government, has still not materialised – turned sods notwithstanding.
“Parents, students and teachers know that it’s not unusual for this Government to simply drop their education promises. This has happened repeatedly, in both terms of office. However, the situation in Ballyvourney again highlights the outright double standards of Fianna Fáil when it comes to the Irish language.
“Minister Hanafin would have the people believe that the Irish language is only safe in her hands. She has ridiculed proposals from Fine Gael to engage in wide-ranging and long-overdue reform of Irish language teaching and learning. These proposals come from a realistic and honest acknowledgement of the crisis facing our language. And yet, on her watch, Government promises to support the language are again put on the long finger.
“Quite amazingly, Minister Hanafin has managed to spend up to €400,000 on a centre that still does not exist. When are we going to see this spending result in something tangible? Or, given the fact that the Minister’s Department keeps changing their mind on the provision of this centre, has this money been frittered away?
“Mary Hanafin knows full well that schools in Gaeltacht areas and Gaelscoileanna are finding it very difficult to find teachers with the high level of competency in Irish that they require. The Ionad Náisiúnta Gaeilge at Ballyvourney should have been up and running for the last five years, devising training courses for teachers to ensure that they have the highest level of competency in the language, and ensuring that they understand the methodologies that should be used in delivering the best possible language tuition to their students.
“I have already set out my agenda to improve Irish language teaching including an increased focus on the Irish language for new and practising teachers, the utilisation of the best available modern technology and teaching methods for the Irish language, and the development of a specialist Language Support Corps to help individual primary schools which are having particular difficulties with the teaching of Irish.
“The centre at Ballyvourney was to be a national centre of excellence, with the remit of engaging with educational institutions from pre-school to third-level. Now, more than ever, this centre is badly needed. In the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the making of this promise, it’s time for Fianna Fáil to finally make good on their word.”