Let’s call a spade a spade. As much as Gaelscoileanna don’t encourage it, they have become an unofficial “private school” for Middle Ireland. Everybody knows it but saying it out loud attracts vitriol like no other. So, I’m saying it. I can only go on my own experiences but if you go to almost any area where there is a Gaelscoil built next to a non-Gaelscoil, it won’t be too long before you’ll see.
It’s not a criticism of Gaelscoileanna and, in fairness, there’s nothing they can really do about it. Their aim is to have as many people in Ireland learning through the Irish language and, I guess, it doesn’t really matter what the motivation is. The problem, unfortunately, is that for all the increases in Gaelscoileanna, there is still very little Irish being spoken from day to day in this country, even by those who send their children to Gaelscoileanna (and from what I hear also from children in Gaelscoileanna on yard!)
Anyway, even if I am wrong, we still face a massive problem with our native language in that almost nobody speaks it on a daily basis. However, ask anyone on the street, you’re likely to find people would like to be able to speak it.
Why don’t we kill two birds with one stone? How about we make all primary schools into Gaelscoileanna? This will ensure everyone has access to their native language and there will be no need for parents to drive past several schools to get to the only Gaelscoil.
However, maybe we should decide not to have Gaelscoileanna at all and teach Gaeilge in all schools in the same way – as a subject?
Personally, I don’t have a strong feeling either way about whether we decide to be all Gaelscoilenna or not. However, the consequence of having both is creating unnecessary class divisions and this is not ok.