IT’S a sad day indeed when an Irish-medium school has to go the courts to seek its rights from a Sinn Féin Minister in a battle we all thought the Irish language had won a long time ago.
But that’s exactly what happened due to a wrongheaded decision – opposed by this paper at the time – by Education Minister Caitríona Ruane to refuse transport for Coláiste Feirste pupils travelling to the school from Downpatrick. Minister Ruane was praised in our leader columns many times over the years but on this issue, she got it wrong. We were to the fore in reporting this story and in supporting the rights of parents and students to avail of an Irish-medium education.
In court this week, a judge threw out a frankly rather worrying attempt by the Department of Education to argue that commitments to the Irish language in the Good Friday Agreement were simply “aspirational”.
Justice Séamus Tracey nailed that one in the clearest of terms, stating unequivocally that the Department has a solemn obligation under the terms of what is an international treaty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education.
This paper has no idea how things came to such an unprecedented and sorry pass that an Irish-medium school had to go to the courts to seek its rights from a Sinn Féin Minister, but now that the issue has been settled, we have no hestitation in praising the school for standing up for its pupils, and by extension for all of us who hold the Irish language and culture close to our hearts.
It’s our hope that the new Sinn Féin Minister for Education, John O’Dowd, will now act swiftly to put things right to the satisfaction of all who have been the victims of this unfortunate mess.