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An Seanscéal Arís do Ghaeilgeoirí

09/10/08

(English version follows.)

Daltaí agus Príomhoide Choláiste SpeirínSeoladh Meánscoil Feirste ar Bhóthar na bhFál i mBéal Feirste in 1991 in aeráid pholaitiúil a bhí chomh naimhdeach do Ghaeilgeoirí is a bhí sí do phoblachtánaigh na hÉireann.

Céim chróga eile i gcath crua fada a bhí á throid ag pobal na Gaeilge sna Sé Chondae. Ba í an aidhm oideachas trí mheán na Gaeilge a sholáthar dá bpáistí agus teanga a athbheochan ar a tháinig meáchan ionsaí impiriúlach na Breataine leis na céadta bliain.

Tá na fáthanna ar meathadh agus beagnach díothaíodh an Ghaeilge cruthaithe go maith. Tá na fáthanna a bhí ag rialtas Breataine ‘teangacha dúchais’ a ghearradh amach agus iad siúd a labhair iad a choinneáil i sclábhántacht soiléir. Ní amhlaidh go bhfuil an Béarla níos ábalta mar theanga cumarsáide ná an iliomad a sháraigh sé; is de bhrí gur buaileadh é isteach i ndaonraí ar fud an domhain le linn réimis Impireacht na Breataine ba mheasa gur é an Béarla an bealach chun leasa. Ceangail seo leis an mhórcheannas iomlán Angla-Mheiriceánach ar réimse eacnamíochta agus cultúrtha an Iarthair agus feictear go soiléir an dóigh a bhfuil teangacha, cultúir agus féiniúlachtaí dúchasacha ina gcliath le sárú ag an tionscnamh impiriúlach.

Ar fud an domhain tá daoine a bhfuil a dteangacha imithe anois, nó ar tí imeacht in éag, agus Béarla, Fraincis, Portaingéilis nó Spáinnis á labhairt ina n-áit. Bhí an réasúnú simplí – má scriosann tú a meon comhchoitianta, scriosann tú ceann de na fáthanna le héirí amach. Tá an Astráil mar shampla, coilínithe ag an Bhreatain freisin, i ndiaidh 95 faoin chéad dá dteangacha dúchasacha a chailleadh.

Tá ollmharú na nGael le faobhar anois thart, buíochas le Bríd. Bhí an dearcadh leis an Ghael a choinneáil faoi smacht beo beathach sa saol laethúil polaitíochta ar fud an 20ú céad afách, agus go háirithe sa Stát Oráisteach. Ba sa chomhthéacs seo a rinneadh ceannródaíocht ar Bhunscoil Phobal Feirste sna 1970í (an chéad bhunscoil Ghaeilge i stair stát na Sé Chondae), as a thosaigh bunscoileanna eile ag fás ar fud na 80í agus 90í. Ba san aeráid pholaitiúil sin a bhunaigh Cathal Ó Donnghaile agus Feargus Ó hÍr, le coiste díograiseach agus grúpa tuismitheoirí taobh thiar díobh, bhunaigh siad Meánscoil Feirste in 1991.

Bhí a seacht sáith os coinne an chéad mheánscoil Ghaeilge i stair an stáit. Chuir miandúthrachtach phobal na Gaeilge taca faoi, chomh maith leis na tuismitheoirí agus páistí san earnáil agus iarracht mhillteanach na múinteoirí.

I láthair gach cur i gcoinne, bhí rath thar cuimse a lucht bunaithe uirthi. Tá sí anois ar an dara meánscoil Ghaeilge is mó in Éirinn le caighdeán oideachais gan sárú. Ó thús umhal, le naonúr daltaí in 1991, tá 518 dalta anois inti ag freastal uirthi, agus céadta eile imithe thar an tairseach. Téann neart daltaí ar aghaidh ag obair tríd an teanga agus á cur chun cinn, mar mhúinteoirí, gníomhaígh phobail agus díograiseoirí cultúírtha.

Tá taithí ag Gaeilgeoirí ar a gcearta a éileamhTheip ar naimhdeas stáit, ar bhagairtí báis aontachtaithe, ar dhiúltú maoinithe agus ar ionsaithe ciníocha earnáil na Gaelscolaíochta a threascairt. Le tacaíocht pobail láidir, lean léi ag fás.

Ar an ábhar sin, is tromchúis do Ghaeilgeoirí go bhfuil polaiteoirí a thabharfadh Gaeil orthu féin le feiceáil ag cur de dhroim seoil dóchais scoil eile díreach mar an gcéanna i staid chosúil. Bunaíodh Coláiste Speirín ar na prionsabail chéanna le Meánscoil Feirste, ag duine de na ceannródaithe a bhí croílárnach i dtionscnamh Mheánscoil Feirste – Cathal Ó Donnghaile.

Bhain gach dalta ar an scoil ina gcéad bhliain, le ganntanas acmhainní agus maoinithe, bhain siad uilig A amhach sa GCSE Gaeilge – cúigear as an seisear ag fáil A* – i scrúdú a dhéantar de ghnáth ag aois 16. Cothaithe ag deathoil phobal na Gaeilge i lár-Uladh, taispeánann an scoil an tualaing chéanna a bhí ag an Mheánscoil ach fós, beagnach scór bliain níos moille, fulaingíonn sí an leithcheal céanna.

Tá Coláiste Speirín ar na corrdheiseanna do mheánscolaíocht trí mheán na Gaeilge ar fáil do na mílte páistí a théann trí bhunscolaíocht Ghaeilge. Déanta na fírinne, ó bhunú Mheánscoil Feirste níor bunaíodh ach trí scoil eile, ceann acu druidte anois, a fhágann trí cheann, agus níl maoiniú stáit ach an an chéad Mheánscoil. Chomh teoranta sin atá dul chun cinn i stát na Breataine in Éirinn.

Tá an t-éiteas frith-Ghaelach chomh forleathan sin i hallaí na cumhachta go bhfuil an cath ollmhór céanna fós ag an scoil agus a bhí ag Meánscoil Feirste na blianta fada ó shin. Dhiúltaigh Roinn Oideachais na Sé Chondae maoiniú di – a thug chomhairle don scoil go gcaithfidh sí cónascadh le scoil Bhéarla.

An íoróin an uair seo ná gur í Caitríona Ruane, Gaeilgeoir agus náisiúnaí, an t-aire atá ag riaradh seanpholasaí an imeallaithe chultúrtha.

Ag diúltú an maoiniú a sholáthar, dúirt sí:

“...I must be satisfied that proposals for a new school will lead to viable schools providing good quality education for their pupils.I have considered this proposal very carefully and I have met with, and listened to, those involved. I am not convinced that this proposal would achieve sustainable intakes and that the proposed funding arrangements with Coláiste Feirste would represent a good way forward...”.

Ghlac sé sé bliana agus na torthaí staitisticiúla ab fhearr sna Sé Chondae le teacht leis na critéir mhaoinithe leagtha amach do Mheánscoil Feirste. Tá an chuma air go bhfuil riarachán Stormont na Breataine ag dul glacadh leis an tionscnamh Gaeilge is déanaí le dímheas den chineál céanna.

 

Nothing But the Same Old Story for Gaeilgeoirí

Coláiste Speirín has a DreamMeánscoil Feirste was launched on Belfast’s Falls Road in 1991 in a political climate that was as harsh for Irish language activists as it was for Irish republicans.

It was a brave step in a long and hard battle being fought by the Irish language community in the Six Counties. The aim was to provide Irish language education for their children and to revive a language which, over the centuries, had borne the brunt of British imperialist policy.

The reasons for the decline and near eradication of the Irish language are well documented.

The reasons for a British government to cut out ‘native tongues’ and keep those who spoke in them in servility are obvious. It is not that the English language is a more capable medium of communication than the many it has overcome; it is because it has been beaten into populations all over the world during the worst reigns of the British Empire that English is how you get ahead. Couple this with a complete Anglo-American dominance of the western economic and cultural sphere and it becomes very clear how indigenous languages, cultures and identities are important hurdles for the imperialist project to overcome.

All around the world are people whose languages are now gone, or teetering on the brink of extinction, and replaced by English, French, Portuguese or Spanish. The reasoning was simple – if you remove their collective mindset, you remove one of the reasons for rebellion. Australia for instance, also colonized by the British has now lost 95 per cent of it indigenous languages.

The slaughter of Irish speakers by the sword is, happily, a thing of the past. However, the mentality of keeping the Gael in submission was still very much a part of everyday political life throughout the 20th century and particularly within the Orange State. It was in this atmosphere that Bunscoil Phobal Feirste (the first Irish language primary school in the history of the Six County state) was pioneered in the 1970s, from which other bunscoileanna began to emerge throughout the ’80s and ’90s. It was that political climate in which Cathal Ó Donnghaile and Feargus Ó hÍr, with a diligent committee and set of parents behind them, established Meánscoil Feirste in 1991.

The uphill struggle the first Irish language secondary school in the history of the state undertook was colossal. It was underpinned by a fervent will on the part of the Irish language community, the parents and children in the sector and the overwhelming effort by the teachers involved.

In the face of all opposition, it was a success beyond the imagining of its pioneers. It has become the second largest Irish language secondary school in Ireland with an educational standard second to none. From humble roots, with nine students in 1991, it now houses 518 students, with hundreds more having passed through its gates. Many students go on to work through and promote the language, as teachers, community activists and cultural enthusiasts.

Gaeilgeoirí are used to having to demand their rightsState hostility, unionist death threats, denial of funding and racist attacks failed to crush the Irish language schools sector. With the backing of a strong community, it continued to grow.

Consequently, it is with a heavy heart that Irish speakers are witnessing politicians who would classify themselves as Gael thwart the hopes of an identical school in similar circumstances. Coláiste Speirín has been founded upon the same principals as Meánscoil Feirste, by one of the same pioneers who was pivotal in the Meánscoil Feirste project – Cathal Ó Donnghaile.

All of the students in the school have, in their first year, with a lack of resources and funding achieved As in GCSE Irish – five of the six acquired A*s – in a test which is usually sat at the age of 16. Sustained on the good will of the Irish language community in mid Ulster, the school displays all the potential of the Meánscoil and, yet, almost two decades later, faces the same discrimination.

Coláiste Speirín is one of the very few opportunities for second level education through the medium of Irish available to the thousands of children who undergo Irish primary education. In fact, since the establishment of Meánscoil Feirste only three other schools were created, one of which is now closed, leaving only three, and none with state funding except the original Meánscoil. So limited has been the progress within the British state in Ireland.

So prevalent is the anti-Irish ethos within the corridors of power that the school still faces the same colossal battle that Meánscoil Feirste faced all those years ago. It has been refused funding by the Six County department of education – who instead have advised that it must amalgamate with an English medium school.

The irony this time around is that Caitriona Ruane, an Irish speaker and a nationalist, is the minister administering the age-old policy of cultural marginalisation.

In refusing to provide funds, she said:

“...I must be satisfied that proposals for a new school will lead to viable schools providing good quality education for their pupils.I have considered this proposal very carefully and I have met with, and listened to, those involved. I am not convinced that this proposal would achieve sustainable intakes and that the proposed funding arrangements with Coláiste Feirste would represent a good way forward...”.

It took six years and the best statistical results in the Six Counties to meet the funding criteria set for Meánscoil Feirste. It would appear that Britain’s Stormont administration is going to treat the latest Irish language initiative with similar disdain.

 

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