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Gaelscoil Na Laochra Biorra Celebrates Its Official Opening

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Gaelscoil Na Laochra Biorra Celebrates Its Official Opening thumbnailCutting the specially baked cake to announce the official opening of Birr’s Gaelscoil na Laochra in Sandymount on Friday last

THE excitement was palpable in the school yard of Gaelscoil na Laochra in Birr as Offaly's newest all Irish primary school celebrated the momentous occasion of its official opening.

 On Friday last, the multi-denominational primary school marked the occasion with a tree planting ceremony after enjoying an 'cupla focal' from renowned and much loved Irish broadcaster, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh.

Opening the proceedings, Áine Nic Dháibhéid, Priomhoide, welcomed everyone enthusing it was 'both an honour and a pleasure' to welcome everyone to Birr to celebrate the official opening of the school. 'This school welcomed its first students on September 1st 2015. However, the journey began long before that with "Biorra le Gaeilge" and Chairman, Cllr John Carroll campaigning endlessly, following on from their success with Noinini Beaga.'

 Initially, the new Gaelscoil was located at Birr Soccer Club but it moved to its current location in Sandymount Haven in September 2016 where its 31 pupils along with their teachers have settled well into their new surroundings. 'It's two years this month since I was appointed and work began on the uniform, the design of our unique crest, the selection of a name, which fits perfectly with the spirit of the wonderful children here beside me and on which the foundation of the school is built.'

 According to Ms Nic Dhaibheid, these 31 characters had 'already made their mark in Birr and nationally', noting their recent successes in 'prestigious awards for art, writing and only this week in spelling'. The Principal then welcomed the school's Chairman, Cllr John Carroll to say a few words.

‘Absolutely delighted' to be at the event, Cllr Carroll enthused: 'When I went at the invitation of Rosalind Fanning to a meeting in Stella O'Malley's home, my thought was we were going down to see how we could promote the language. But, Stella had far bigger ideas in her mind. She had two young children and wanted an Irish education for them and she said she wanted a Gaelscoil. Some of us thought it was a mountain too high to climb.

But as time went on, we started with a number of small things including comhrá, summer camps, Seachtain na Gaeilge, and then Noinini Beaga got going.'

 'Then we started putting the pressure on for a Gaelscoil. We were quite lucky that the then Education Minister announced a survey on whether there was a demand out there for a Gaelscoil or divesting of patronage. We all campaigned hard.... And then we were chosen.' He thanked everyone, who worked for that.

Noting the school was still waiting for its permanent home, he said this building had been 'picked out by the Civic Offices' and it would be refurbished to a full school in time. 'But, for the time being, I think it's a lovely here for the children,' he enthused.

He went onto thanked the school's teachers, Ailbhe Ní Churraoin  agus Áine Nic Dháibhéid, Biorra le Gaeilge and all those they were working with, for all of their 'hard work'. 'It's a fantastic day and we are so honoured to have a school like this in Birr. I am honoured and privileged to be part of this great historic day for both education and the Irish language here in Birr,' Cllr Carroll said.

The school is under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta and Tómas Ó Pól, was delighted to be attending the opening of what he described as one of the organisation's youngest but 'most special schools'. Explaining he himself was a father of three children, who all attended a gaelscoil, he commended parents for making the decision to send their children to the school. 'I can assure you as a parent, it's not a decision you are ever going to regret. Because when I look at the confidence of my children and the fact they are able to speak three languages.'   Continuing, Mr O' Pól urged people to now start looking at the issue of Gaelcholáiste now the Gaelscoil was opened.

Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was delighted to be at the event and also congratulated the parents for 'making the decision' to send their children to a gaelscoil. Addressing the crowd, the well-known broadcaster noted the unfortunate decline of the Irish language by the 1970s, outside of the Gaeltacht. However, he was quick to point out there's 'almost a gaeslcoil in every county in Ireland now'. Continuing, Mr Ó Muircheartaigh spoke about the history of Gaelscoileanna in Ireland and how they have grown to a situation now 'where some Gaelscoileanna can't take the numbers they want to', due to the massive growth in their popularity.

According to the broadcaster, children attending Gaelscoileanna would 'take an interest in the language, the culture, the games and music. They will not even realise they are speaking the language. It will come naturally to them and will sound natural to them. It will be in their heads.'

Turning his attention to signs the strength of the language had grown, he spoke about his experience as a broadcaster on the sports field and the difficulties he used to have finding an Irish speaker on a team. However, he said it was 'much easier to find a player on a sports team, who speaks Gaeilge now'. Mr Ó Muircheartaigh continued Gaelcholáiste were also another phenomenon that were now growing in popularity and perhaps someday, he enthused there would be an all Irish university 'for those who wanted it'.

Stella O'Malley, of Biorra le Gaeilge, enthused she wanted to 'say more than anything when we started Biorra le Gaeilge we had no idea the Gaelscoil we hoped to get would be so amazing. I am so thrilled with the Gaelscoil, how wonderful it is, how friendly, kind and gorgeous the whole school is. It has such a wonderful atmosphere,' she said, thanking the school's teachers, Ailbhe and Áine. She also thanked Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh for coming to Birr for the official opening while noting he was at the opening of the Gaelscoil she attended in Dublin as well as performing the official opening of the Gaelscoil muinteoir Ailbhe went to in Nenagh. She then presented the broadcaster with some beautiful Offaly themed gifts.  

Before the event was wrapped up, the pupils treated the audience to some wonderful songs as Gaeilge before Robyn O'Brien, Jamie Hernon, and Faye Bennett Bergin ably helped Mr Ó Muircheartaigh to plant a tree in the school's front yard to 'celebrate the gaelscoil putting down roots in Birr'.

 Meanwhile, Offaly/North TD, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy and Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy congratulated everyone involved in the Gaelscoil on the occasion of its opening. 'I would like to congratulate the teachers, the Board of Management, parents and students on the official opening of Gaelscoil na Laochra, Biorra. This is a wonderful achievement and ensures that education through Irish has a permanent home in Birr.

There's a huge revival in Irish language and culture and parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to Gaelscoileanna. I was delighted to hear the school will move to its new location on Wilmer Road this year, which will allow the school to develop and prosper in the years ahead.'

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