Northern Ireland

Coláiste Dhoire: UUP questions decision over Irish language school

John O'Dowd
Image caption The Ulster Unionist Party said it was challenging Education Minister John O'Dowd to explain why he agreed to plans for a new Irish language school against expert advice

Northern Ireland's education minister has been asked to explain why he approved a new Irish language school, amid claims the cost is unsustainable.

John O'Dowd has agreed to open Coláiste Dhoire, a grant-aided post-primary school in Dungiven, County Londonderry.

The Ulster Unionist Party said he took the decision in spite of official advice from several education bodies.

Mr O'Dowd's Sinn Féin party disputes the UUP's account. The issue is due to be debated in the assembly later.


The debate has been called by the UUP's education spokesperson, Danny Kinahan, who questioned the decision to proceed with the project at a time of budget cuts.

Mr Kinahan said the objections were not an "anti-Irish language campaign" by unionists, but a "value for money campaign".

The UUP MLA said Mr O'Dowd had approved the new school "contrary to official advice from the Western Education and Library Board, the North Eastern Education and Library Board, the Education and Training Inspectorate, the ministerial advisory group on Irish medium education and his own department".

Mr Kinahan has proposed an assembly motion calling on Mr O'Dowd and all other minister in the Northern Ireland Executive to review the decision "on the grounds of rationality, affordability and sustainability".

'Fully supportive'

However, Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín took issue with the UUP's remarks.

"Those opposed to the development of Coláiste Dhoire have wrongly claimed the Western and Eastern education and library boards are against the plans which is not the case," Mr Ó hOisín said.

"Comhairle na Gaelscolaíochta, the body with responsibility for Irish language provision is fully supportive of the development of Coláiste Dhoire.

"Sinn Féin has consistently supported Coláiste Dhoire and the provision of Irish medium education and we will continue to do so by opposing this motion."

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