A shock Fine Gael proposal to abolish the compulsory teaching of Irish if put into power in this month’s 26-County general election has provoked spontaneous protests in Dublin.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny confirmed last week his party would abolish the subject’s mandatory status in the Leaving Certificate.
Several hundred students marched in Dublin yesterday [Monday] in protest at Fine Gael’s proposal. Demonstrators staged a silent sit-down protest at Dáil Éireann before making their way to the party’s headquarters.
Sinn Féin also staged a protest outside Fine Gael headquarters on Dublin’s Mount Street this [Tuesday] morning.
“In contrast to Fine Gael, Sinn Féin is committed to the protection and restoration of the Irish language,” Donegal South West TD Pearse Doherty said.
“Rather than taking measures that will contribute to the dissolution of Irish, we believe the state should in fact be taking constructive steps to strengthen, support and encourage its growth.
“Unlike Fine Gael’s proposal to de-prioritise Irish by removing it from the second level education system as compulsory, we in Sinn Féin commit ourselves 100 per cent to its promotion,” he said.
There are significant concern that the move could have a significant knock-on impact in a number of areas, such as the arts, culture, media and tourism sectors of the economy.
Mr Doherty pointed to the impact it would have on the ground in Gaeltacht areas.
“There is a 50 million euro local economy there in relation to the Irish colleges in which 25,000 students attend those rural communities every year to learn the language”.
“So this isn’t just damaging the Irish language, it is damaging to the rural economy.”
Sinn Féin proposed the appointment of an Aire Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta in Cabinet, with responsibility to deliver on the 20-year strategy, a new statutory body to have sole responsibility for the development of Irish, and changes to the Irish Syllabus in schools.
“We are demanding Fine Gael reverse this ridiculous assault on the Irish language,” Mr Doherty added.
“Sinn Féin will fight Fine Gael tooth and nail throughout the parishes and throughout the townlands on this policy because this is a long term issue that will have serious consequences for our future.”