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Raghnaid Ni Ghriofa and her brother Tadhg with Gaelcholáiste an Chláir Principal Brian O Donoghue. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare family counting cost of pursuing education through Irish

Champion Chatter

A MILTOWN mum-of-six is facing a bill of €200 per month so that her children can avail of their entitlement to be educated through the medium of Irish. 

Erica Burke has been making intensive efforts, over the last 18 months, to secure school bus transport from the family home in Miltown to Gaelcholáiste an Chláir in Ennis, the county’s sole provider of secondary education through Irish. 

The school is highly supportive of the family and has made every effort to accommodate the two children attending. Due to the schedule of public transport, the children, who are in first and second year, are unavoidably late, by at least half an hour every day.

That has resulted in them losing out on what Principal Brian O’Donoghue estimates is four full school days to-date, through no fault of their own or their family.

Mr O’Donoghue noted that the Gaelcholáiste is the county provider of secondary school education through Irish and “absolutely thrilled” to have students from all over Clare attending. “We are really proud of and very anxious to support these students,” he said.

“We would like to see the issue resolved so that they can continue their education through Irish. This affects a lot of students, and not just in Clare. It’s very disappointing that we’re now in mid-November and there has been no resolution found yet.”

Attending the gaelscoil in Moy in Lahinch, two of Erica’s children chose to continue their secondary education through Irish.

“That’s a Constitutional right, but for the last 18 months, we have had no school transport.” she said.

“My other children hope to go to the Gaelcholáiste when they finish national school. We both work, so at the moment the kids are getting the Doonbeg bus. They have to leave at 7.45am to get the bus and because of the schedule, they’re always late.

“The principal has allowed that, but they are still missing out on 30 to 40 minutes of their education every day. The bus drops them at St Joseph’s Hospital and they have to walk, in all weathers, to the Gaelcholáiste. One day this week, the bus didn’t turn up, so I had to drive them in.”

Erica described herself as at her “wit’s end” and said that the last thing she would ordinarily do would be to go to the media.

“I certainly wouldn’t be putting myself or my children in the public eye,” she said. “I’ve been advised to speak out, however, as an absolute last resort to try to highlight this situation”

Erica has been in regular contact with public representatives and the Department of Education. “I am nearly on first name terms with the staff of Minister Norma Foley’s office,” she said. “Local representatives have raised the issue with the Minister, but nothing has changed.”

Among the people that Erica has contacted is Noeleen Moran who has been advocating for her since June. Despite the children’s right to choose to be educated through Irish, school transport is not currently provided. 

“We have ascertained that through the department of education but there is no transport,” Noeleen said. “They offered Erica €5 a day towards transport costs because they have no school transport. Given the increase in energy prices €5 would only buy 2.5 litres of diesel not nearly enough to even come close to covering the round trip twice a day from Miltown to Ennis.”

Noeleen added that despite raising the issue with all Clare TDs and the Departments of Education and Transport, they have been “stonewalled.”

Erica also acknowledged the support of Gaelcholáiste an Chláir, Conradh na Gaeilge and Deputy Michael McNamara. 

At the time of going to print, there had been no response from the Department of Education to a query from The Champion. 

Fiona McGarry
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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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