Education minister opens Irish school with only 15 pupils

The DUP has accused the education minister of 'political dogma' in opening a new Irish language secondary school in Dungiven with only 15 pupils.

John O’Dowd officially opened Gaelcholáiste Dhoire on Thursday, Northern Ireland’s second post-primary Irish medium school.

Peter Weir, chair of the Stormont Education Committee and DUP education spokesman, said: “At a time of financial pressure within education, many will share with me a sense of frustration that political dogma has overridden practical considerations.

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“In the same week as a one per cent cut has been announced in schools funding, and a further two per cent pressure for schools through increased National Insurance contributions, it is hard not to see this school as being driven by ideological rather than educational concerns.

“During this term we have seen the closure of 51 schools, yet at the same time the minister is opening an entire school with fewer pupils than found in the average primary school classroom.”

He added: “A new school for 15 pupils cannot be described as responding to demand.”

Mr O’Dowd said: “I am delighted to be here to officially open Gaelcholáiste Dhoire. The Irish language is an integral part of our rich and shared heritage and I take great pride in being part of a sector that continues to grow and thrive educationally, socially and economically.

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“I have no doubt about the benefits that Irish medium education offers our children and I am committed to protecting, enhancing and promoting our language and cultural heritage for future generations.”

He praised the determination and dedication of staff and governors and said he hoped that more Londonderry children “can explore and learn through the medium of Irish language”.

The school currently rents space at Dungiven Castle.

The minister also visited the site of the new £1.3m Edenderry Nursery School in Belfast as work begins on the site.

The new school, which is situated at the junction of Lanark Way and Mayo link, will cater for 52 pre-school pupils.

The nursery school is currently located in Glenwood Primary School.