A DUP motion opposing the introduction of a special funding arrangement for establishing Irish medium schools was blocked in the Assembly by Sinn Fein yesterday.
The club bank system, which has been used in the integrated sector and allows additional private fundraising to support the particular form of schooling, was dismissed as "unfair" by MLA Michelle McIlveen.
She said it gave Irish medium schools an advantage over the mainstream controlled and Catholic maintained sectors and bolstering yet another type of education could not be justified at a time when too many sectors were putting an unneccessary burden on the public purse.
But Sinn Fein intervened with a petition of concern which stopped a vote on the motion and sent it to the Executive for discussion.
MLA Michelle O'Neill said the DUP motion, also tabled by MLA Mervyn Storey, was sectarian and an attack on one section of society.
Ms McIlveen responded: "It was not a sectarian attack on the teaching of the Irish language, it was about the provision of a level playing field where education is provided in an even handed way without advantage to any sector.
"It is my opinion – and that of my party – that the controlled sector caters for everyone and having four sectors is not logical and places too much of a financial burden on the Department of Education."
She added: "At present, according to the report of the Independent Strategic Review of Education, there are 50,000 empty places at our schools.
"It is also estimated that there will be an additional surplus of 30,000 over the next 10 years.
"The opening of further Irish medium schools can only add to this problem.
"Primarily, the sector potentially most at risk from the unfair advantage given to these schools is the Catholic maintained sector.
"It has been proposed that a club bank system, similar to that currently in place for the integrated sector, be established for the benefit of the Irish medium sector.
"Such club banks are an unfair advantage over the controlled schools and the Catholic maintained schools.
"As such I find the concept wholly objectionable."
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has already requested that 1 million be allocated in 2008/09 for an Irish Medium Building Fund Club Bank.
The DUP MLA suggested the minister was determined to press ahead with her plans regardless of what is best for education overall.
In addition to the bid for 1 million, the minister is also asking for additional financial support for Irish medium schools' budgets, language enhancement for teachers in the Irish medium sector and curriculum support.
Ms McIlveen added: "It seems incredible that government money is being spent on teaching teachers what is allegedly their own language."