Bruton rejects north Dublin appeal for secular Gaelscoil
Campaigners say decision ‘highlights the flaws’ of inequitable selection criteria
Minister for Education Richard Bruton did not see “any basis” for overturning the original decision to refuse the Gaelscoil application. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Minister for Education Richard Bruton has rejected an appeal against his decision to refuse permission for a multidenominational Gaelscoil in north Dublin.
Campaigners had called for a change in the criteria used to grant school patronage after an application to open an Irish-medium secular school was rejected by Mr Bruton earlier this year.
The proposed patronage body, An Foras Pátrúnachta, had submitted 733 names of children from within the catchment and adjacent areas - a record-breaking number in the history of the Gaelscoil movement.
There is no comparable multidenominational Irish-medium school in any of the adjoining school districts and had permission been granted the proposed school would be the only Irish-medium school of this type on the northside of the city.
Despite the “strong application” and noting the “strong level of demand for Irish medium education in the area,” Mr Bruton informed An Foras Pátrúnachta by letter that he did not see “any basis” for overturning the original decision.
The decision “highlights the flaws” in the process for opening Irish-medium schools, and is based “on the rigid application of the patronage determination process,” Cormac Mc Cashin of An Foras Pátrúnachta said.
“We were extremely disappointed to read in the Minister’s letter that he is not willing to grant recognition to an Irish-medium school, in spite of the compelling case made by An Foras Pátrúnachta,” Mr Mc Cashin said.
In his letter to an Foras Pátrúnachta, Mr Bruton cited the geographical criteria adhered to by the Department of Education .
“Of the 733 children in respect of whom a preference for an all-Irish school was collected in this instance, some 332 are in fact living outside of Drumcondra/Marino/Dublin 1 , although the purpose of providing the school is to cater for the projected demographic growth within the area.”
He added that the patronage body “is very familiar” with the operation of the patronage system adding that it would have been “very aware” that children from outside the defined area whose names were included on the list “could not be counted.”
“I appreciate that this is disappointing, particularly for parents whose expectations had been raised, but in the interests of fairness and transparency the school planning area boundaryhas to be adhered to under the published terms of the process for establishing new schools to meet demographic need.”
Permission to open the school was awarded to patronage body Educate Together which had the most names from directly within the catchment area.
While the majority of the names included in the Gaelscoil list were also from within the area, many were from adjacent districts.
Campaigners say the school selection process is skewed against those who wish to have their children educated through the medium of Irish. They say derogation should be given to Irish medium schools on the basis that they cannot numerically compete with English-language schools in such strictly-defined catchment areas.
“We have not asked the Minister to overturn the decision to grant a school to Educate Together, as they have clearly illustrated the demand for such, we have rather sought equity for you the parents who seek Irish Medium Education for (their) children,” Mr Mc Cashin said.
Mr Mc Cashin said that since its inception, An Foras Pátrúnachta has pointed out that the existing patronage process “is not an equitable one when trying to provide the greatest diversity in school options”.
He said the process also fails to meet the State’s commitments under the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language which states that a high standard of all-Irish education will be provided to school students whose parents/guardians so wish.
Mr Mc Cashin added that the Department of Education accepts that children who attend Gaelscoileanna travel from outside the Department’s school planning areas. “They have asked that these children be included in our applications to illustrate the wider demand,” he added.
Mr Bruton said the New Schools Establishment Group (NSEG) confirmed to him that the criteria for the process were applied “in a fair and transparent manner” and that the recommendations regarding patronage were “in accord with these requirements and criteria and gave due regard to the levels of parental demand demonstrated in the applications.”