Northern Ireland news

Armagh Irish-language school plan withdrawn

It had been hoped the new school would open in September

PLANS to open the first stand-alone Irish language primary school in Armagh have been withdrawn.

It had been proposed that Gaelscoil Ard Mhacha welcome its first intake of P1s this year.

Consultations with nursery staff, parents and public were "very positive and unanimous", those behind the project said.

Other schools, including an alternative Irish-medium (IM) provider, however, opposed it.

One response to a consultation described the bid as a "massive mistake".

There has been Irish language education in Armagh city for more than 30 years, the first school – Naíscoil Ard Mhacha – opened in 1987.

Bunscoil na mBráithre Críostaí followed in 1995 as a unit in the Christian Brothers' PS.

Further nursery units set up in Armagh and Keady while the area is served at post-primary by a stream at St Catherine's College.

A steering group said there was "substantial level of demand" and hoped there would be a permanent purpose-built school within 10 years.

Armagh Harps GFC said it would be willing to permit use of one of its rooms to house children on a temporary basis.

The Education Authority (EA), however, noted that while it supported the bid there was "strong opposition from schools in the area".

Christian Brothers' PS, St Patrick's PS, Mount Saint Catherine's PS and St Catherine's College all said they were "fully supportive of developing the Irish language and culture with Armagh city".

They had asked the EA to note that the Irish stream at Christian Brothers' was under-subscribed this year "and in fact has always been able to accommodate any child who applied".

"In Armagh City alone, there are seven primary schools. Many of these schools are below enrolment capacity and suffering from a lack of inward investment," a case for change document read.

"If another school was to be established, this would cause a further downturn in the other schools and may significantly and detrimentally impact heavier on one particular school with serious negative consequences for the jobs of staff."

The Department of Education confirmed it was notified that the project required further preparatory time due to "a number of extraneous factors".

A spokeswoman said this required withdrawal at this time with a view to re-submitting the proposal for publication at a future date.

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