Hundreds of students marched on the Fine Gael party headquarters on Monday to protest party leader Enda Kenny's proposal to make the Irish language an optional subject for final high school exams in Ireland.
Earlier this month Fine Gael announced its strategy to make Irish optional for the leaving certificate, giving students the option to drop the core subject after their junior certificate.
The demonstrators staged a silent sit-down protest outside the Irish Parliament on their way to the Fine Gael headquarters. Symbolically protesters covered their mouths with red tape.
Aodhán Ó Déa, Irish language officer with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), then handed in a petition with 15,000 signatures opposing the measure to the party headquarters.
He said, “We are angry about this and we won’t vote for Fine Gael if they continue with this policy. Enda Kenny is not happy to meet with us and we’re telling him that if you’re not happy to meet us Enda, we’re going to come and meet you and that is why we are handing in this petition to Fine Gael headquarters today."
A Trinity College Dublin student, Jen Ní Mhathúna, said that the policy was simply a way for Fine Gael to avoid the issue. She said, "It’s a lot easier in the short term to just do away with it and not have to deal with what the difficulties in teaching Irish are. In the long term it is absolutely detrimental to the language and the future of the language."
Cillian Hanaphy, another Trinity student said, "There's no evidence anywhere in the world that says you can restore a language by reducing its social status. It's an absolute cop-out. The language will die out eventually if this happens because students won't pick it. The curriculum needs to be changed - you can't just get rid of a language."
A telephone poll in Ireland, carried out by MRBI, should that 61 percent of Irish people are in favor of compulsory Irish being taught in schools. The poll questioned 1,000 people aged 16 and over. Two-thirds of these felt most subjects in elementary school should be taught through Irish so that children get used to using the language.
This survey was carried out last July for Irish teachers associations (Comhar na Muinteoiri Gaeilge, Conradh na Gaeilge, Gael Linn, Gael-scoileanna agus Comhdhail Naisiunta na Gaeilge). They delayed the publication until Fine Gael had released its proposal.