Armagh Harps Club on the Loughgall Road was the venue for a public meeting this week to announce plans for a new Irish medium primary school in Armagh City that will open its doors in September 2019. The announcement comes after the opening of the third Irish language nursery school in the City back in September.
Parents, Irish language activists, community and primary school representatives assembled to hear presentations by Conor Stiúbhard, Development Officer with Comhairle na Gaelscoláiochta, Geraldine Parks, a parent of Irish medium educated children, Orlágh Ní Néill, Team Leader with Naíscoil na Caille and Gearóid Ó Machail, Director of Aonach Mhacha. The presentations were followed by a Q&A session with Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta representative Peadar Ó Cuinneagáin during which prospective parents were given the opportunity to find out more about the developmental plans for Irish medium education in Armagh City.
The news came as the Education Authority released their Annual Action Plan for Primary, Post-Primary and Special Schools in Northern Ireland. The Annual Action Plan reflects the actions to be taken forward for the period April 2018 to March 2019. Due to sustained pressure and lobbying by the local Irish language community, a ‘Key Issue Action for Primary Schools’ is to encourage and facilitate the development of sustainable Irish medium provision in the Armagh area.
This places an onus on the sectoral body, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, and on the managing authority (EA) to develop options to establish sustainable Irish medium provision in the Armagh area by March 2019.
Currently, the demand for places in Irish medium schools at nursery and primary level far outstrips supply. With current provision inadequate to meet growing demand, the EA have been compelled to act in order to address the shortfall which has arisen in recent years.
According to local Irish language spokesperson Gearóid Ó Machail:
“The current position is untenable. We are haemorrhaging dozens of children and their families from the Irish medium system every year due to the failure of authorities to meet obvious demand and evidenced need. Parents in Armagh have finally had enough and are demanding their right to choose Irish medium education for their children in accordance with the provisions of the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages and the Education Act (NI) 2014.
“We welcome the key issue action contained in the Education Authority’s latest Annual Action Plan for Armagh and look forward to affirmative action being taken to address under-provision in our sector”.