The biggest obstacle that Irish Medium Education faces today is that of poor accommodation. It’s difficult to believe that there are still Irish schools in the North that are forced to inhabit old portacabins, or if their lucky a rented room in their local GAA club. It seems this is all about to change; it certainly looked that way this week in Belfast, when the Minister of Education officially opened Gaelscoil na Móna’s brand new building.
Gaelscoil na Móna was established in Turf Lodge, Belfast in 2000. Since then it has been one of the fastest growing schools in the North. As a result of increasing pupil numbers, it became clear that Gaelscoil na Móna was outgrowing its accommodation. To solve this problem, in 2006 Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta (The Trust Fund for Irish Medium Education), bought the plot of land directly beside the school from the Housing Executive. The vision InaG had was simple, to build the modern high standard accommodation that the pupils deserved. That’s exactly what happened. Now the school has a building worth over £500k, that consists of three large classrooms, a resource centre and a disabled toilet facility.
A great crowd attended the official opening, with Gerry Adams and the Minister of Education Caitríona Ruane present. Teachers from the school presented the principle, Caireann Uí Mhuireagáin with a bouquet of flowers for all her efforts during the last couple of months and for being especially patient and hard working throughout the whole building process. Despite this praise, Caireann reserved the biggest thanks of the day to the parents who chose to send their kids to the school. “Without them” she said “Our school wouldn’t be as strong and as vibrant as it is today”.
It was with regret that the Chief Executive of Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta, Pilib Ó Ruanaí, could not attend the event. Pilib was actually stranded in Portugal after his flight was delayed by the Volcanic Ash. In a statement he released, he praised Doherty Architects and Western Construction who carried out the building work at Gaelscoil na Móna. Pilib also went on to say;
“This new build has set the standard for Irish Medium School accommodation. It is a benchmark that Iontaobhas na Gaelscolaíochta will strive to maintain always.
A couple of weeks ago, the Minister of Education Caitríona Ruane launched an Accommodation Fund to address the accommodation problems that the Irish medium sector suffers. A problem that Gaelscoil na Móna suffered from until they received this modern new building. Minister Ruane came under harsh criticism from the media after the establishment of this fund. This criticism highlights the fact that the North is still home to an anti-Irish agenda. Are we not entitled to the same accommodation as everyone else? Despite this the Irish Medium sector is growing, and Gaelscoil na Móna’s new building is testament to that progression.”
Through this new Accommodation Fund mentioned by Pilib Ó Ruanaí, five other schools are in line to receive the same type of building that Gaelscoil na Móna has received. In line are, Gaescoil Éanna, Gaelscoil na Spéiríní, Gaelscoil Ghleann Darach and Scoil an Droichid. Maighréad Ó Conghaile, Principle of Gaelscoil Éanna attended the launch of Gaelscoil na Móna’s new building. Maighréad said that she was highly impressed with the building and could not wait until the building work began on their own version.