Town opens 'unofficial' gaelscoil
A SCHOOL and its 11 junior infant pupils entering the education system mark a double first today -- but the Department of Education doesn't want to know.
The all-Irish Gaelscoil Ráth Tó, in Ratoath, Co Meath, opens its doors for the first time but the school, with one teacher, Tricia Ni Mhaolagain, has been set up despite a refusal by the department to recognise it or provide state funding.
The lack of official recognition meant the school had to find up to €100,000 to cover its costs for the first year, with funding coming through donations, fundraising and from Irish language organisations both in Ireland and abroad.
Today marks the culmination of two years' work by parents and Irish language enthusiasts to set up a gaelscoil in the expanding town.
Last year, hopes were high that the gaelscoil would be recognised after the department announced that, based on population trends, a new school would be needed in Ratoath.
However, earlier this year, the department changed its mind and said that existing schools could cater for the projected increase in pupil numbers.
A department spokesperson said they had "no comment" to make on the school's decision to open today.
The Ratoath gaelscoil promoters say the department's position not to recognise their school ignores the desire of parents to have their children educated through Irish.
At one stage, over 30 local children were signed up for the Gaelscoil Ráth Tó, but after the department's decision, some parents looked elsewhere, reducing the number of enrolments to 11.