More work is needed in the education system to ensure Ireland’s media sector ‘realizes its full potential’

FURTHER work is needed across Northern Ireland’s education system to ensure that the Irish-speaking sector “realizes its full potential in the years to come”, according to a new study.

Conradh na Gaeilge, who together with the Administration of Justice Commission commissioned the study, said there were still “many failures and shortcomings regarding the role of the state in the development of the Education in Irish (IME)”.

The Irish language advocacy group and the CAJ said the research was aimed at examining “the effectiveness of the Department of Education and the Education Authority in relation to the teaching of Irish”.

It also sought to establish whether the departments had discharged “their legal obligation to encourage and facilitate education in Irish having regard to the legal framework and applicable international standards”.

The research, led by Dr Robbie McVeigh, reveals that the sector has “seen significant growth”, but “continued to face a level of hostility and political opposition”.

He indicated the obstacles faced by IME in several areas, including planning and development of new schools, teacher training and capacity, special educational needs, resources and IME at the secondary level.

He found that “the relationship between the statutory education section and the IME sector is not working to develop IME” and that there “continues to be a deep gap in understanding of the meaning of the legal obligation”.

“For most members of the IME community – and the wider Irish-speaking community – the legal obligation should have reset the relationship between the State of Northern Ireland and the IME,” the research says.

He said “the main finding of this research is that the reset between the state and the language community has not happened in the way envisioned in the Good Friday Agreement.”

“The state is now at the heart of providing a greatly expanded – and growing – EMI sector but a further reset is needed to complete the commitment to develop EMI.”

Conchúr Ó Muadaigh of Conradh na Gaeilge, said “while the average Irish sector is correctly recognized as the fastest growing education sector…the unresolved structural issues that the sector has faced for over 50 years since the inception of the first instant messaging offering have left many wondering about the effectiveness of the current legal requirement and the willingness of statutory and state bodies to proactively encourage and facilitate the development of the industry” .

“This has been compounded by the openly hostile attitude towards MI as expressed by the DUP, which has held the Department of Education for seven years,” he said.

“This research has confirmed many of our deep concerns. Although significant progress has been made by the IM sector, there are many failures and gaps regarding the role of the state in the development of IM education. GI: This research calls for a further ‘reset’ between the state and the Irish language school community, and that this should be facilitated by strengthening legal obligation.

“Given recent legislative developments in the integrated sector, we look forward to developing proposals for a new Irish Middle School Education Bill in the coming months in collaboration with the IME sector, DE and community stakeholders, as we seek to ensure the sector realizes its full potential in the years to come.”

The Department for Education and EA had not responded to a request for a response.