A Gaeltacht region in Connemara was “inundated” with applications after advertising the chance for a family with primary-school-aged children to live there rent-free for the 2023-2024 academic year.
The initiative was launched in hopes of saving An Chloch Bhreac's primary school Scoil Naomh Pádraig which has just 11 pupils but needs at least 12 to hold on to a teacher and stay open in the long term.
"A wonderful opportunity for a family to live in the beautiful Joyce Country Gaeltacht area surrounded by the Irish language and culture," the advertisement said, touting a large, rent-free home just two minutes away from the school where the lucky family's children will attend.
Seans iontach do chlann bogadh go dtí ceantar álainn gaeltachta le scoil álainn. Fantastic opportunity for a family to attend a great school in a beautiful location rent free for a school year.Posted by Scoil Naomh Padraig An Chloch Bhreac on Friday, March 31, 2023
The Irish language primary school, with support from Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach Teo and ECC, launched the initiative in late March and received more than 1,100 applications before closing the entry window in May.
Some of the applications came from within Ireland, but some also came from as far away as Portugal.
While the promise of living rent-free for a year would be enticing enough, An Chloch Bhreac, situated on the Galway - Mayo border between Loch Measc and Loch Coirib, boasts picturesque scenery, a remote working hub, and welcoming locals.
"We have a fantastic school and this is the only central focal point that's left in the community," Geraldine Feerick, the Principal of Scoil Naomh Pádraig and one of the school’s two teaching staff, told RTE.
"We run courses here, have card games, coffee mornings and we put on a play every year.
“I grew up here myself, I went to school here and it would break my heart to see the school closing, because it was always a beautiful little school in the middle of a stunning rural area.
"And it's still the same as it was years ago when I came here. And we came up with this idea of the free rental in order to try and get a family to boost our numbers.
"So first we had to get a house and obviously it's quite hard with the housing crisis at the moment. So we were very lucky to get a local couple that offered us a five-bedroom house at great value in order to support the school and we're very grateful for it. Then it was full steam ahead."
Of the initiative, Feerick said: "It's a fantastic opportunity for any family because it's a small school where we have lots of support, lots of things going on through gaeilge, which they will pick up very easily because kids are like sponges.
“And they get to experience living in a local rural community which is a great advantage to any family.”
The organizing committee has gone through the massive amount of applications and is close to choosing the lucky family who will be able to call An Chloch Bhreac home, rent-free, for a year.
Gaelscoil in Galway offers rent free house for a year to family with children of primary school age. Over 1k apply to enroll their kids and save school in An Chloch Bhreac with just 11 pupils @rtenews @morningireland @news2dayRTE @rtesixone pic.twitter.com/roHODdz5xC— Teresa Mannion (@TeresaMannion) June 7, 2023
Last year, the Irish island of Inis Meáin ran a similar initiative, inviting families with school-age children to apply to live there rent-free for a year of immersion in Irish language and culture.
Two families were selected to move in last September, Rónán and Colette Mac an tSaoir and their five children from Navan, Co Meath, and Valerie and Conor Sheehy and their four children from Curraghchase, Co Limerick.