The Education Minister has denied a lack of demand was behind her decision to close an Irish-medium unit in a Co Tyrone school.
Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane, a long term supporter of the development of the Irish language in schools across the province, announced yesterday that she has agreed to a proposal to close the Irish-medium unit at St Patrick's Primary School, a co-educational, maintained primary school in Gortin.
However, she said that while she was forced to close the unit at St Patrick's Primary School due to the small number of pupil enrolments there, she believed that a growing number of parents in the area want their children to attend Irish-medium schools.
Ms Ruane said pupil numbers at the unit at St Patrick's Primary School have decreased following the opening of an Irish-medium school, Gaelscoil Na gCrann, in nearby Omagh in September last year, which now has 38 pupils enrolled.
"The demand for Irish-medium education continues to grow, even though the overall number of young people in our schools is falling," she said.
"Despite this fact, we need to plan more strategically for the provision of Irish-medium education and it is for this reason that a review is currently under way - a review that I hope will bring forward bold proposals on how to support this growing sector.
"My hope is that the review of Irish-medium education will provide for a sector with long-term stability that meets the needs and wishes of those who choose an Irish-medium education for their children."
The development proposal to close the Irish-medium unit was submitted to the Minister by the Western Education and Library Board at the request of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools and trustee.
A spokesman said that as a result of a decline in pupil applications leading to a falling enrolment, CCMS and the trustee had been forced to make this difficult decision.
He also acknowledged the impact the closure will have on staff, pupils, parents and the local community and in light of this, he explained that representatives from CCMS will engage in a period of discussion with parents in relation to the educational provision available for their children.
He added: "The proposal to close any language unit at a Catholic Maintained School is never taken lightly and occurs only after a period of thorough consideration about what is best for the pupils. Unfortunately the Irish Medium Unit at St Patrick's Primary School has been affected by a falling enrolment."