28 October 1999 Edition

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Historic grant for Gaelscoil

PARENTS of children attending a County Tyrone Gaelscoil which has been promised £50,000 from the Irish government now want the British government to follow suit and officially fund the school.

A school spokesperson, Eilish Quinn, has accused the British government of refusing to support Coalisland's Gaelscoil Uí Neill, which costs £150,000 a year to run.

Gaelscoil Uí Neill is the first school in the Six Counties to receive funding from Dublin through the Department of Foreign Affairs. It was founded by a small group of parents in 1995, and through local fund-raising, parents and the board of governors have built an educational place of excellence.

From small beginnings, it now boasts five classes and a nursery and has acquired two minibuses for school transport. This is despite the fact that the Six-County Department of Education has changed its original criteria for funding from 15 students for two successive years to 25 in an apparent attempt to justify its refusal to fund the Gaelscoil.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews was first made aware of the school's plight during a meeting with Sinn Féin's Mid-Ulster MP, Martin McGuinness.

McGuinness has welcomed the funding:

``It is a recognition of the tremendous work being carried out by Irish language activists in the North of Ireland.

``Many of these activists are parents of young children who want to have them educated through the medium of their native language. Others, who may not be parents, recognise the richness of the language and culture and are committed to restoring them to their rightful place in society.''

McGuinness was scathing of the British government's failure to fund the school.

``The fact that this money has had to come from Dublin highlights the failure of the British government to fulfill its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement,'' the MP said. ``While the British government claims jurisdiction here, it is obligated to provide education in the Irish language to those who so choose.

``The Department of Education should immediately announce that it will provide the money required in addition to the generous grant from the Irish government to help provide a fully-funded Irish language education.''

An Phoblacht
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