15 March 2001 Edition

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Gaelscoil defies the odds

The opening of Gaelscoil Eois in Lioa Darach, Monaghan, on Friday 30 March will represent far more than the rudimentary opening of just another primary school. It will be the fruition of a long and difficult battle by parents to develop their local school, despite all the odds.

The school will be opened by Sinn Féin's Six-County Education Minister, Martin McGuinness and his 26-County counterpart Michael Woods, but the relationship between the school and former 26-County education ministers has been far from amicable.

The school's Board of Management jokingly refer to the last time they extended an invite to a Minister for Education in their press release. ``What makes this invite unusual, is that it marks the recognition of the huge distance travelled by our school since the last invitation we issued to a Minister for Education,'' they say. ``On that occasion, the minister in question was Niamh Breathnach, and we invited her to the High Court, when we sought a judicial review of her decision not to grant us recognition and funding!''

This invite had been extended in October 1996, only a year after the school had first opened. The school opened in September 1995 without departmental funding. Despite being assured that recognition would be forthcoming in September of the following year, rules were changed without consultation and the school's founders were again refused recognition. Leave to seek a judicial review was sought in October of that year and was granted.

In Febuary 1997, one week before the second hearing of the judicial review, the Labour Party minister's department agreed to grant recognition if the case was dropped. This was agreed by both parties and departmental recognition and funding started that April. In the intervening period, the school has been particularly affected by the lack of forward planning in the department, they say, which has resulted in the huge shortage of primary school teachers. Despite these setbacks, the school has survived against the odds.

``We are immensely proud of our school and of our achievement to date,'' the school's Board of Monagement said this week. ``We see the opening as a celebration of this but also, and very importantly, as a chance to publicly, on the day or through the media, thank all those who have helped and supported us over the past six years. Without them we could not have achieved so much.''

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1