AN Taoiseach Enda Kenny lauded the efforts and aspirations of young people when he visited Mount St Michael and St Colman’s secondary schools in Claremorris last week. He presided at the launch of the new www.mtstmichael.ie website and also at a number of developments at the college.
Members of staff and the Student Council were on hand to welcome Mr Kenny to Mount St Michael before he proceeded to the school gym where he addressed the students. In a wide ranging speech, he spoke of young people in Ireland today as being among the best in the world and capable of performing to the highest levels.
He told the story of well-known dancer Michael Flatley who, a week earlier at a conference in Limerick, recalled his own youth growing up in Chicago.
“Michael told us he did not have the opportunity to go to college. He was working with his pick and shovel in Chicago along with his father. When he asked his father why they had to work seven days a week, his father threw down the shovel and said ‘the reason I am working seven days a week is that you won’t have to work seven when you grow up.’
Ms Fionnghuala King, principal, said Mercy Sisters arrived quietly to Claremorris at the end of the 19th century and steadfastly provided opportunities for education for all the girls of the town and its hinterland for the next hundred years, often through hard times.
“We walk in their footsteps today as together with our now lay trustees CEIST, our Board of Management and the support of the community of Claremorris, we at the school continue to provide a value-based education - education beyond the books - education for life.
“We hope that our students leave Mount St. Michael with a strong sense of self-worth, confident in who they are and what they are capable of. Lucinda Creighton, Minister for European Affairs, is a proud Mount St Michael girl.
“Our new website is the school’s way of telling our story beyond the school walls, beyond the town’s boundary and outside our county border, across the Shannon, across the Irish Sea and indeed across the Atlantic and beyond.
“The restyling of the website began in 2010 when lots of groundwork was done by teachers Sinéad Grogan, Ashling Warde and Sinéad Egan. Since June this year, Sinéad Egan has embraced this project single handedly with the support of the staff and management of the school. I want to acknowledge all those who worked on the website but in particular Sinéad who has put in uncountable hours so that today we have a website to be proud of.”
Ms King spoke of the increasing strain on teachers at the school because of the cut in numbers. “I want to express in the strongest possible terms that the greatest resource we have in this school is our teachers. In 2001 we had 32 permanent teachers - for the same number of students, today, we have 26. The proposed increasing in the pupil-teacher ratio in the budget will bring us beyond where we can go.”
On behalf of the Student Council, Sarah Commons expressed thanks to the Taoiseach for taking time out to visit the school while Shania McDonagh, who won a national Texaco award for her art in recent months, presented Mr Kenny with a portrait of himself.
The Taoiseach presided at the official opening of the renovated Gymnasium, Changing Rooms, Art and Media Rooms and the official launch of our iPad Enhanced Learning Initiative and school website when he visited St Colman’s College. Here he reminisced about his footballing days and games played against the college back in the 1970s. A link with that era was Frank Molloy (Proinsias O Maolmhuaidh) who taught in Castlebar before coming to his home school of St Colman’s.
School principal Jimmy Finn recalled many of the developments at the college in recent years, including the major all-weather football pitch. “This project is now fully complemented by the completion of the gymnasium and changing rooms and will help to ensure that St. Colman’s continues to be a nursery for Gaelic football and sporting talent well into the future. I wish to acknowledge the foresight and vision of then School President, Fr. Michael Lyons, who in 1974 initiated and completed the building of the school gymnasium without the assistance of public funds.”
He said St Colman’s had been to the forefront of technological innovation for many years. “Mrs Maura Newell, who retired from staff last year, prompted our first foray into Computer Technology, setting up our first dedicated computer room using Apple Macs in 1985. Thanks to the vision and initiative, of our late colleague, Michael McDonnell, and the support of local business and fundraising, we developed a dedicated PC Multi-Media Room in 2006. More recently, thanks to Department of Education and Skills funding of around 50,000 and a generous donation from Smyths Toys, we have upgraded our ICT facilities and can confidently state that we are at the forefront of technological innovation in the school system. We have recently reconstructed our school website, www.stcolmans.ie with the assistance of a past pupil Eoghain O Braonain.”
Fr Peter Gannon, PP presided at the blessing ceremony while retired woodwork teacher, Seán Foody, on behalf of the college, presented An Taoiseach with an artefact fashioned out of the timber of a yew tree.
Mr Kenny was taken on a guided tour of St Colman’s prior to departing for Dublin.