Comhaltas Uladh, the Ulster provincial branch of Conradh na Gaeilge, is calling on candidates from all political parties running in the Northern Assembly elections to pledge their support for learning a language to GCSE level, and to press the British Government to reverse the decision to end this compulsion. Comhaltas Uladh also believes all parties should urge the government to enact a comprehensive, rights-based Irish-language Act should they be succeed in winning seats in the elections on Thursday, 5 May 2011.
Niall Comer, President of Comhaltas Uladh said: "When the Labour Party decided in 2004 that students would no longer have to study a foreign language up to GCSE level, the decision had enormous repercussions on the teaching of Irish in schools in the North; between 2007 and 2009 alone, the number of students studying Irish for their GCSE fell from 2710 to 2084. In many schools, students now have to choose which language they will study until Year 10 before they even start their first year in secondary school. There are students that now never study any Irish at all during their second level education, even in schools that are very supportive Gaelic culture and sports, and the status of Irish in the school depends on the goodwill of the existing principal for the most part."
Regarding the question of an Irish-language Act, Niall Comer had this much to say: "Likewise, the Irish-speaking community in the North deserve a fair deal and Comhaltas Uladh is calling on the political parties that will be in power in the future to enact a rights-based Irish-language Act to protect the rights of those who would like to speak Irish, regardless of what community or political background they belong to."
Comhaltas Uladh firmly believes that Northern Ireland's cultural organisations have a pivotal role to play in building bridges and reconciling the different communities of the Six Counties, and in celebrating the culture and heritage of the North side-by-side in a mutually respectful manner.
Julian de Spáinn, General Secretary of Conradh na Gaeilge said: "Unlike Ireland, no other country or economy in the world has the Irish language as a unique selling point to attract visitors to the country - north and south of the border - and to generate income from the tourism sector, for example. Conradh na Gaeilge believes that Members of the new Assembly should promote the status of the Irish language in schools, and indeed throughout the community in general by means of an Irish-language Act, to ensure we get the most out of the valuable cross-community asset we have in the language, and to help the Northern Irish economy recover, through tourism and the celebration of culture in particular." END
President, Comhaltas Uladh
+44 (0)78 15319573
Julian de Spáinn
General Secretary, Conradh na Gaeilge
+353 (0)1 4757401 / +353 (0)86 8142757
Comhaltas Uladh is a provincial assembly of Conradh na Gaeilge and was founded in 1926 to administer the work of Conradh na Gaeilge in the province of Ulster, as well as Co. Louth. The organisation's main purpose is to promote the Irish language in Ulster. Comhaltas Uladh organises branches, feiseanna, and Irish-language speaking competitions for school pupils. Comhaltas Uladh provides assistance to drama groups, preschools and other Irish language schools in the 10 counties, and works in partnership with universities and training colleges in Northern Ireland also. Comhaltas runs summer schools in Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht areas in the north and gives scholarship grants to learners of Irish every year. www.comhaltasuladh.com
Conradh na Gaeilge is the democratic forum for the Irish-speaking community working to promote the language. There are over 200 branches of Conradh na Gaeilge and since its foundation in 1893, members of the Conradh have been actively promoting Irish in every aspect of life in Ireland and especially its use in their own areas. Conraitheoirí are at the forefront of campaigns to secure and strengthen the rights of the Irish language community. It is also possible to register as an individual member of the Conradh. www.cnag.ie