Gaelscolaíocht Éireann organised a pioneering and positive seminar in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry last week. Gaelscolaíocht Éireann is a cross border project of Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta in the north and Gaelscoileanna in the south. All of the major Irish language educational organisations throughout the country attended the seminar.
On the day, a research paper on reconciliation was launched focusing on anti-racism and anti-sectarianism. A range of individuals spoke at the Launch on related themes. Approximately 30 people from diverse backgrounds attended the seminar and they discussed the major findings of the research paper during the workshops which followed the guest-speakers.
Among the guest-speakers that spoke were Dr Gordon McCoy of the Ulster Trust, a cross-community organisation who spoke about the role and work of the Trust. An Dr Stephen Nolan of Trademark, an organisation affiliated to the ICTU who delivered a presentation on the major findings of the research paper and expanded on several of the points. Dr Feilim O hAdhmaill, Lecturer in Social Policy in Cork University who spoke about the colonial and historical context of minority-languages with a particular emphasis on the Gaelic language. Glen Phillips, an employee of Fáilte Feirste Thiar and acitve in international solidarity campaigns against racism spoke from personal experience about the challenges and obstacles facing ethnic minorities coming to Ireland.
The over-riding message to come from the seminar was the need for the Irish-medium education sector throughout the whole country to confront these new challenges and the new set of circumstances facing Irish society today. It was accepted that Irish society is changing everyday and that the Irish-medium education sector would have to adopt a more pro-active and a more organised approach to enable the sector to be more inclusive of ethnic minorities and, in particular of the northern protestants.