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Parents threaten legal action after accusing Dundalk school of sidelining Irish language voice on board

Coláiste Lú pupils have already staged a walkout as part of an ongoing row over Irish language teaching.

Image: Shutterstock/Khafizov Ivan Harisovich

PARENTS AT A Dundalk school at the centre of a row over the withdrawal of Irish language-taught subjects have threatened legal action after accusing staff of trying to silence their concerns after the board of management was ‘reconstituted’. 

Coláiste Lú, an aonad at English-medium school Coláiste Chú Chulainn, has already seen walkouts from pupils over a decision to reduce the number of subjects taught through Irish. 

An aonad caters for students who wish to be educated mainly through Irish in areas where it is not feasible to have a stand-alone Irish medium secondary school. 

Now, parents say that the school, which is run by principal Thomas Sharkey, is trying to deprive them of a voice on school governance by “re-constituting” the Board of Management. 

The current board met first in 2016 and is now due to be re-organised, meaning new nominations must be made. 

However, when the nomination form, seen by TheJournal.ie, was sent out to parents on 18 October it asked people to nominate two parents or guardians “to the Board of Management of Cólaiste Chú Chulainn one male and one female”.

It did not specify that there would be one representative for each part of the school – the English-language main school and the Irish-speaking aonad. 

The constitution of the Coláiste Lú Parents Association, which was adopted in 2013, states that the association will have “one parent representative on the Board of Management; their brief is to reflect the opinions of all parents at board meetings and to report the views of the board as appropriate”.

To parents, who have organised in response to what they say is an ongoing threat to the future of Coláiste Lú, this is an attempt to remove their voice from the board. 

In a statement, the parents council said:

The Principal, acting as secretary to the Board of Management sent out a letter to all parents of the school advising of appointment of new parents representatives using procedures that he had devised which ignored the criteria in the Constitution.

A legal letter, sent on behalf of the Coláiste Lú Parents Council to the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board and seen by TheJournal.ie, warns that “unless our client is afforded its legal right in this regard it seems unavoidable that litigation will follow”.  

Sharkey declined to comment when contacted by TheJournal.ie. The Louth and Meath Education and Training Board did not respond to a request for comment. 

“We get the sense that there is an ulterior agenda,” Aidan Kinsella, the secretary of the parents’ council, said. 

Parents have long been concerned that the school is slowly moving away from its commitment to the aonad and the Irish language. 

“There’s been a breakdown of trust and it’s important to have a voice on the board,” he said. “If our voice isn’t there, we don’t even have a chance to say this is wrong.”

Parents also say that the school, as well as the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board, has ignored their concerns. 

In a letter to Kinsella from the training board’s Director of Schools, Fiona Kindlon, she states that “it is not possible to have three parent nominees on the Board of Management of Coláiste Chú Chulainn”.

In a reply, Kinsella says that there was never a request for a third parental representative on the board. 

“Instead… it is querying the validity of the procedures being used,” he writes. 

The latest clash between parents and the management of Coláiste Chú Chulainn comes after High Court action was threatened over the initial decision to reduce the number of Irish language-taught subjects. 

In September, pupils staged a walkout in response to the changes, which the Louth and Meath Education and Training Board has blamed on teacher shortages. 

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