STUDENTS are split over whether or not Irish should remain compulsory for the Leaving Certificate.
The split has followed the controversial call by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to make Irish an optional choice after the Junior Cert. He also wants an updating of the syllabus and a review of the way the language is being taught.
The Union of Secondary Students has backed the proposal, saying it is unfair to take seven or eight subjects for the Leaving Cert while being made to spend long hours every week studying for something in which they have no interest.
However, the Union of Students in Ireland has demanded that Fine Gael retract the proposal. USI Irish Language Officer Ciarán Mac Fhearghusa said that the language belongs to the people, not to the politicians.
"Students were appalled when the leader of Fine Gael proposed to scrap Irish as a compulsory subject in secondary schools, and USI expresses solidarity with those groups opposing this assault on the status of our first language."
Glór na nGael has already collected 1,230 signatures on-line, opposing Fine Gael proposals while Conradh na Gaeilge has asked people to vote for political parties that are in favour of keeping Irish as a core Leaving Certificate subject.
Conradh president Dáithí Mac Cárthaigh said the proposal went against the values of Fine Gael, was anti-Irish, anti-academic, and anti-European.
He warned that the Conradh campaign would produce sufficient numbers to ensure that Fine Gael would face difficulties in constituencies, especially those where the party hoped to win new seats. But the Fine Gael leader has accused the Irish language lobby of playing politics ahead of the next election.
Mr Kenny has described the intervention by Conradh as "ill-informed and ill-judged" and said the party would not be deflected from a modernising and reforming approach.