Northern Ireland news

Irish language schools angry at lack of cash for new buildings

Of the almost £200m announced for building works by Peter Weir, none has gone to Irish-medium schools

Irish language education campaigners are angry that their schools are to miss out on new capital money.

Nine schools are to share a pot of more than £150 million for buildings.

Education Minister Peter Weir announced that three primary and six post-primary schools would advance in design.

The announcement was unexpected as money has been scare of late.

It was pointed out in the assembly that no Irish-medium schools were listed.

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Now, Iontaobhas Na Gaelscolaíochta, the sector's trust fund, is asking the minister for an explanation.

InaG chairman Pilib Mistéil said there was "deep resentment and anger" that no IME schools had benefited from this and an earlier minor works scheme announced by Mr Weir.

Mr Mistéil said he could not understand why IME schools failed to make the cut, when 60 per cent had been in temporary accommodation from day one.

Since Mr Weir took office, he added, almost £200m was made available to benefit 83 schools.

"It would have taken approximately 1.5 per cent of that total to construct a new primary school building for Gaelscoil Éadain Mhóir in Derry city, which has spent its first 25 years in existence in portacabins and had a legitimate expectation that it would finally have the facilities to match the excellent standard of education they deliver," Mr Mistéil said.

"There are three IME schools in Derry city and they are all in temporary accommodation. This is not acceptable.

"Each education sector has its own needs and they are at different stages of development, however, because of the rapid growth of IME in the past 30 years the sector clearly has major deficits in accommodation which must be addressed. InaG calls on the minister to reconsider his decision to exclude Irish-medium schools from this funding programme in the light of fairness and accountability."

Mr Weir was asked in the assembly by Sinn Féin MLA Karen Mullan about the lack of IME investment.

The minister said 89 schools had applied for funding,

"I am committed to ensuring that schools, as much as possible and where it is needed, will get that new school build," he said.

"I am more than happy to meet anybody from any sector to explain the situation. Inevitably, in announcing successful schools, there will be a much greater pool of schools that will be unsuccessful. That is not because they are without merit; it is because, in the ranking according to the criteria, they were not ranked ahead of other schools that we could announce."

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