Concern over state of Irish in Gaeltacht schools
The Minister for Education is worried that the Irish language could "weaken" in Gaeltacht areas.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Minister for Education and Skills Jan O'Sullivan said she was also "concerned" over the rise of spoken English in Gaeltacht schools.
"The real concern is that in the Gaeltacht now there are a lot of people whose first language isn't Irish and in some cases they admit that they speak other languages, and we're concerned at the strengthening of English in Gaeltacht schools and the use of English amongst children and parents," she said.
"It's our language, and its important that we don't allow it to weaken, particularly in the Gaeltacht areas."
The minister launched a series of policy proposals for the "strengthening of the Irish language" yesterday.
Under the department's 'discussion paper', a Gaeltacht school will now be defined as one that operates primarily through the Irish language, as opposed to prioritising English.
Primary schools in the Gaeltacht would have what's called an 'immersion period', during which English would not be taught in infant classes for the first two years.
Teachers would also receive additional supports from the Government, though the exact detail of what kind of help will be given has not yet been finalised.
Schools in the Gaeltacht region currently prioritising English will now be encouraged to move on a phased basis towards giving priority to Irish.
However, the minister also recognised there are some large pockets of English language speakers in Gaeltacht areas. She said that where "the population can justify it" the Department may consider building English-language schools in the future. However, she emphasised it was not the priority right now.
Over the next six months, consultations on the proposals will take place.