THE North's Commissioner for Children and Young People has praised the work of two Irish language community and family centres in West Belfast on a visit this week.

Chris Quinn visited Ionad na Fuiseoige in Twinbrook and Ionad Uíbh Eachach on Iveagh Crescent on Monday.

He was joined by members of Altram, the regional Irish medium early years education advisory organisation, whose main remit is to provide advice, resources and training to Irish medium early years settings.

He was also joined by representatives from the Department of Health, Department of Education, Sure Start and local councillor Séanna Walsh.

In Ionad Uíbh Eachach, Mr Quinn met with children aged from 0-4 in the unique Irish Language daycare service which facilitates over 130 children through their pre-school playgroup and wrap-around childcare.

There was also an opportunity to engage with some parents who shared the quality experiences their children and families have received through the services available.

There is also a Sure Start two-year programme ‘as Gaeilge’ and wrap-around childcare and support for nursery age children. 

In Ionad na Fuiseoige, the Commissioner was shown around the facility where it offers families in the community an option for naíscoil, nursery, creche, after-schools, youth club and day care, as well as an expanse of programmes and events for the whole community to avail.


Staff at both sites said the sense of community within the facilities was amazing, however, they feared cuts to funding could eliminate the options of early years education through Irish medium.

Commissioner Chris Quinn said: “It is truly heartwarming to witness how children in both settings are thriving by embracing the Irish language. The value these settings bring to children and their families is undeniable.

“Every child deserves the right to education, furthermore, children also have the right to learn the language and culture of their family. These rights are protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I also appreciate the opportunity to observe the progress of Altram as an organisation and the Irish medium early years sector. I understand the difficulties this sector is facing due to funding and staffing pressures. 

“More needs to be done to enable career paths for young people, train, support and develop the workforce, and to enable growth to meet demand.

“The Department of Education is obliged to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish Medium Education, this includes the early years, however, I would argue that other agencies including ETI, CCEA, Departments for Health, Economy and Communities all have a role to play in meeting the needs of children accessing services through the medium of Irish.”

Aisling Walls, Bainisteoir of Altram, said: “What a great opportunity it was for us today to showcase high quality Irish medium early education in practice.

"The fruits of effective Irish immersion practice were truly evident today and we are delighted that the Children’s Commissioner gained an insight into what the Irish medium early years sector has to offer.

“As a sector we have so much to celebrate, in relation to the quality of experiences and outcomes for our children and in its growth and diversity, but today also demonstrated the positive impact of dedication, hard work and investment.

“However, the Irish medium early years sector also faces many challenges, with the lack of sustained incremental investment and a bespoke workforce strategy, coupled with growing demand for places in our early years settings, we need commitment and proactive engagement from government.

“Chris, a chara, tá muid an-bhuíoch díot as an tacaíocht agus ionchur s’agat! Ní neart go cur le chéile.”