With all the talk of equality of access to schools, one would have thought when the Admissions Bill was published that it wouldn’t create more division. However, not only did the Admissions’ Bill make enrollment based on religion more complicated and divisive, a sneaky little change came about to advantage “native” Irish speakers into getting places into their local Gaelscoileanna.
Somehow, while nobody was looking, Gaelscoil Teo managed to sneak in this little addition to the Admissions’ Bill. Their theory was that a number of native Irish speakers were not able to get into their local Gaelscoil so they felt that they should be prioritised for enrollment. And how did they propose to do this? They decided a little interview would do the job.
One might ask how is this any different to the Baptism Barrier (albeit discrimination based on a person’s ability to speak a language rather than being a Catholic?) Of course, one would be right to argue this and this rule should be scrapped immediately.
Here were my thoughts when the idea was mooted on 12th February, 2018.
When I heard that the above wasn’t a joke, I needed to 1. absolutely make sure it wasn’t a joke and 2. find the rationale behind it. Thankfully, Julian de Spáinn came along to Newstalk to explain today.
According to him, this isn’t a problem at all. Sure, only 3% of children that attend Gaelscoileanna are from Irish-speaking backgrounds so it’s only going to be one or two children who will be applying for the privileged places every year out of 27 or so children. And, he goes on, the real problem, is that we actually need more schools.
Oh…the echoes from the Baptism Barrier!
“Sure, there isn’t a problem at all. Only a handful of children can’t get into our schools and we have to have some criteria to allocate places. Isn’t the real problem lack of school places?” – a paraphrasing of the defence of the Baptism Barrier.
Let’s take this argument a step further.
You want your kid to go to a Gaelscoil but you don’t speak Irish but you’d love your child to learn through the medium of Irish for whatever reason. It actually doesn’t really matter whether the reason is because you believe that Irish is very important. Currently, you are now at a disadvantage for a school place from 3% of the children also wanting a place in the school. Your odds are excellent right now. However, take it a few years down the road, when this scheme becomes embedded and, all of a sudden, we have more than 3% of children being raised in the language or we have a bunch of hot-housed toddlers claiming to speak Irish at home, suddenly, the odds could be 50-50 or worse! Maybe, within a couple of generations, over 90% of children applying for Gaelscoil places speak Irish at home and those that don’t fit the criteria will be unable to get places. And naturally, the Gaelgóirí will say it is not discrimination and the real problem is lack of school places.
Ah… a Béarla Barrier?
The idea reeks of inward thinking and of looking after their own. It might be a much better idea for the Gaelgóirí to focus on the non-Irish speakers and figure out how they can help them become native speakers. Despite their best efforts, they may end up killing off the language, which would be a terrible pity.