A group of Irish loving students staged a good-humoured demonstration outside the Naas campaign office of Fine Gael election candidate Anthony Lawlor early last Friday evening.
But if they thought the candidate’s office was an Irish-free zone they were mistaken because they were welcomed and invited inside in the native tongue by one of the campaign team, Tom Keegan.
Accompanied by teacher Conor O Mathuna, the teenagers carried placards, some bearing the message “Tir Gan Teanga, Tir Gan Anam”, and handed out stickers depicting a red-coloured heart with the legend “An Ghaelige.”
Gael-Cholaiste Chill Dara student Robyn De Brun from Suncroft helped organised the protest on Friday afternoon (February 18) with her schoolmate and friend Shannon Ni hEanaigh from Newbridge.
They claim that Fine Gael’s proposal that Irish should be an optional language for the Leaving Certificate will cause irreparable damage to the future of the native tongue and they handed in a petition claiming almost 400 signatures opposing the policy change.
The campaign against the proposal argues that Irish will not be chosen by students because languages are more difficult and Irish would have to compete with other subjects at third level. They also contend that students will be deterred from studying Irish from primary school onwards.
“It is not until senior cycle that most students develop an interest in the language and this proposal threatens to destroy Gaelscoileanna. This will be the beginning of the end for the language,” Ms. De Brun told the Leinster Leader.
However Cllr. Lawlor said his party is planning a major review in the school system that will not damage the language.
“This means that there will be more emphasis on oral Irish and this will help to keep Irish as a living language,” added Cllr. Lawlor.
He later added that it was annoying that Fianna Fail offices were not targetted for the protest “as that party must take full responsibility for the chaotic and unsuitable curriculum.
“It is clear that they paid only lip service to the restoration of the languate when it suited their narrow, insular political needs.
“They have left generations of children with an ill-suited literature-based syllabus with scant reference to the spoken word which is the core of any living language,” added the election candidate.