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Number of Gaeltacht schools using Irish 'in steep decline'

GAELTACHT schools are facing a crisis and unless they get more support, few of them will be teaching through Irish in 20 years' time, says a major study launched yesterday.

It warns that if the perilous state of Gaeltacht education is not resolved, the future of the Gaeltacht areas themselves is threatened. There are 127 primary and 27 post-primary schools in these Irish speaking communities which are scattered over seven counties, mainly along the Western seaboard.

The report says that parents feel that the educational system cancels their efforts to pass on Irish as a living language to their children and to develop a loyalty to the language.

Already a significant number of Gealtacht schools have conceded defeat in the face of the difficulties they face and have switched to teaching through the medium of English while a number of other schools would appear to be wavering.

The study reveals that 10pc of the pupils leave primary and post-primary schools in the Gealtacht areas with little or no Irish.

A further quarter of the pupils who leave primary schools in these areas leave with only a 'reasonable' level of Irish, as do 18pc leaving the post primary schools.

The study was commissioned by An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta - the educational council for Gaeltacht and Irish-medium schools which was established in 2002 under the Education Act 1998.

Breandán Mac Cormaic who chairs the committee suggested that nothing had happened as a result of earlier reports and it would be a terrible blow to the Gaeltacht if the latest report met the same fate.

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