Campaigners for a multidenominational Gaelscoil in north Dublin are calling for a change in the criteria used to grant school patronage after an application to open an Irish-medium school was rejected.
Minister for Education Richard Bruton refused to sanction the Gaelscoil in the Drumcondra/Marino/Dublin 1 catchment area despite the application registering the names of 733 children from the immediate area and adjacent school districts.
The children’s names – a record-breaking number for Gaelscoil campaigns nationwide – were submitted by proposed patron An Foras Pátrunachta on behalf of parents as part of the application.
Despite noting evidence "of considerable demand for all-Irish provision at primary level", the department rejected the Gaelscoil application in favour of an Educate Together school, scheduled to open on the All Hallows campus in Drumcondra in September.
The department's New Schools Establishment Group determined that some of the children listed on the Gaelscoil application were from outside the immediate area due to be served by the school.
Parents say a derogation should be given to Gaelscoileanna on the basis that they cannot numerically compete with English-language schools in any given catchment area.
Supporters of the proposal argue that there is no comparable multidenominational Irish-medium school in any of the adjoining school districts and the proposed school would be the only Irish-medium school of this type on the northside of the city.
Parents are now hoping the minister will allow for the co-location of the school alongside the new Educate Together school on the All Hallows site.
Karolina Stefanczak, a Polish woman living and working in Ireland who wishes to send her three-year-old daughter Gaia to the Gaelscoil, said despite the high level of interest stated, "many of us were from 'outside the catchment area' and therefore 'disqualified'".
“Currently there is not a single Irish-medium multidenominational primary school available from O’Connell Street to Swords. Living in the capital as we do it is bizarre that we do not have the option of this type of education. The Government should ensure that there is this type of education available for any parents who want it without imposing significant distances on them to travel.”
Highlighting the fact that the school would be the only Irish-medium school in the area without a religious ethos, she said: “Such a school would break that idea that the Irish language is only available to Catholics. Having a multidenominational Irish school opens the Irish language to everybody.”
In answer to a parliamentary question asked by Green Party TD Catherine Martin on the matter in the Dáil this week, Mr Bruton said his officials “are keeping the changing demographics in the Drumcondra/Marino/Dublin 1 area under review”.
Siún Mulrennan from Drumcondra, who speaks Irish to her children at home, said she and her family were "devastated" when the application was rejected. "Parents I have spoken to since the decision feel that this is a grave injustice."
Ms Mulrennan believes the refusal to grant permission is in contravention of the 20-Year Strategy on Irish which says a high standard of all-Irish education will be provided to school students whose parents or guardians so wish.
Despite the rejection, parents are continuing to register their children’s names for the Gaelscoil and over 800 children are now on the list.
An online petition started by Ms Mulrennan and her husband calling on the Minister to co-locate an Irish-medium school with the Educate Together school on the All Hallows campus has been signed by more than 1,600 people.
A decision is expected in the coming days on an appeal lodged by An Foras Pátrunachta with the Department of Education over its refusal to approve the application.