‘Cookstown doesn’t need Irish-Medium school’, says Overend

A MID-ULSTER MLA has hit out at a decision by the Education Minister to approve Cookstown’s first Irish-medium primary school grant aided status.

Last week John O’Dowd gave Gaelscoil Eoghain the green light after approving a development proposal for the new free-standing primary school.

But UUP Assembly woman Sandra Overend has reacted negatively to the news and said she “cannot accept” the need for the Irish language school in the area.

Mrs Overend said: “I am extremely concerned with the Minister’s decision which permits the development of an Irish Medium School in Cookstown and yet appears to neglect the needs of other schools in the area.

“I cannot accept that there is a need for such a school nor the dramatic increase in efforts to promote the Irish Language at the expense of the public purse. Directing funds toward this project, which has yet to be fully justified, means that schools in the Mid-Ulster constituency that are in need of repair and investment will be denied access to such funds and subject to further deterioration.”

“I am keen to ensure that equal space is created in Northern Ireland where all can celebrate and promote their cultural identity.”

The MLA added: “If people wish to speak Irish or learn the language then I would encourage them to avail of the options of learning the language already available in the other sectors.”

Mrs Overend’s comments will no doubt anger local parents and campaigners who have pushed for the new school for sometime.

Last month the MAIL reported how parents living in Cookstown were forced to travel outside of the town if they wanted their children to be educated bilingually.

Announcing the news last week, Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “The Department has a statutory duty to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish-medium education and I examine each proposal on a fair and consistent basis.

“There is evidence of a demand from parents to have their children educated through the medium of Irish, with a successful naíscoil already operating in the area.

“I have therefore decided to award conditional approval of grant-aided status to the school and wish the school every success in the future in delivering a quality education for its pupils through the medium of Irish.”