An Irish Medium Youth Club in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast has been unable to open due to the Education Authority’s decision to close the Carraigart youth club facility. Cumann Óige an Ghleanna, which was originally established in Tullymore community centre in 2012, has been based in the EA owned Carraigart building since late 2014 Located in an area where increasing numbers of young people are being educated through Irish, the club has been going from strength to strength in recent years and now has over 100 members and opens 3 nights a week.
The Youth Leader in charge, Gerard McGuinness, stated:
‘I have been working in Cumann Óige an Ghleanna since I volunteered in it as a young leader back in 2012. To say that we are saddened and dismayed that the Education Authority has closed our building is an understatement. We only found out last Tuesday (12 November) when I arrived at the building at it was flooded. Nobody from the EA had the decency to contact me and no prior warning was given. I had to stand outside and give parents the bad news that the club couldn’t open. We received news in writing that the EA was closing the building and that we could come and collect our stuff and take our service elsewhere. No mention was made of fixing the building and allowing us to resume our service on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. The EA also made no effort to get immediate alternative accommodation for our young people.
This has been our centre since 2014 and our young people have nowhere else to go. Our young people depend on and love our service and it’s the only Irish medium youth service in the entire Lenadoon and Greater Andersonstown area. This denies them their right to informal educational opportunities through Irish and in effect, puts 100 young people out on the street. It’s a disgrace and our young people deserve better.’
17 Year old youth volunteer, Caoimhe Glenholmes stated:
‘I’ve been attending Cumann Óige An Ghleanna since I was 9-year-old. I have witnessed the remarkable growth the club has underwent in that period and the trandformational impact this has had on the lives of the young people who attend. This is a testament to the amazing work of the team at Cumann óige an Ghleanna. We can’t believe, therefore, that our club has been closed because of this disgraceful decision. We have over 100 young people attending our club three nights a week and have been demanding in recent years that we receive more funding so what we open 7 nights a week like the mainstream English medium clubs. For years, we’ve have been getting the crumbs from the table and now they even take that away. This is the only facility that we have in the area. We will fight this tooth and nail and are determined to get our building reopened and our youth service back. Our young people deserve it.’
Director of with Belfast Irish medium Youth organisation, Glór na Móna, Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh stated:
‘Glór na Móna have been working tirelessly over the past ten years with locally based youth clubs such as Cumann Óige an Ghleanna to develop our services organically from the bottom up. Not only does this club provide an excellent local service 3 nights a week but they also provide facilitated personal and social development group work programmes as well as one-to-one peer mentoring support for those young people most in need. This invaluable provision is essential for our young people who simply have nowhere else to go. Cumann óige an Ghleanna provides for the children of Bunscoil Phobal Feirste, which is the largest and oldest Irish Medium primary school in the north of Ireland. Emanating from the foundation of the Shaws Road Gaeltacht in 1969, it is disheartening that the EA could make such a regressive decision to effectively close this youth club, just as that the momentous achievement celebrates 50 years of growth. The manner in which the building was closed, without any thought or consideration for their duty of care to our young people, whilst also displaying a distinct lack of respect for our growing sector or the needs of the increasing number of young people availing of the high quality youth work being delivered through Irish.
‘The only reasonable and honest thing to do is for the EA to renovate and restore the building immediately thus allowing us to resume our youth service which ensures that the Department of Education fulfils its statutory duty to ‘encourage and facilitate Irish medium education’ under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Our parents, young people are dismayed and bemused at this decision, as are people from wider West Belfast and Irish speaking community.’
We have arranged a public meeting in Bunscoil Phobal Feirste this Thursday, 21 November at 7.30. We appeal to people to make every effort to get to this meeting and show those in power that our community is united in support of our young people who avail of this vital Irish language youth service.
For further details, contact Feargal Mac Ionnrachtaigh, 07841101630, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Glór an Ghleanna are an Irish medium youth club based in the Lenadoon area of West Belfast, see the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/cumannoigeanghleanna/