Irish-language education has undergone “unbelievable growth” over the past decade but resources are needed to fund development, according to language activists, after plans published by the Northern Ireland Education Authority revealed the number of Irish-language secondary schools in the country is set to double.
It would mean an increase from two to four Irish-medium post-elementary schools, with a new school in north Belfast and another to serve the west of Northern Ireland.
Speaking to the BBC, Ciarán Mac Giolla Bhéin of cultural center Culturlann McAdam Ó Fiaich said, “What we’ve seen over the past ten years is unbelievable growth in the sector, somewhere in the region of 70% growth. This is over a period where enrollment in schools generally has been in decline.”
“Irish education by and large is nondenominational, it is open to all. It has suffered, over many years, marginalization.
“This plan stated that there will be two [new] schools in the not-too-distant future, all this is is a plan, we need the strategy… and resources,” he said.
The Education Authority has also planned two new special schools—one of which is proposed in Mid Ulster and another to expand the Harberton North campus in Belfast—and a number of new integrated schools over the next few years. But it could mean some other schools could eventually close or merge due to a longer-term decline in pupil numbers.