IT may have been a turas fada for Gaelscoil na Cruaiche, Westport, but when Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially opened the state-of-the art school yesterday he cited the significance of the school logo: Bua tré iarracht (victory through effort).
“While this journey may be over, it is very important to continue to adhere to and improve your standards,” Taoiseach Kenny said trí ghaeilge. He said it was a great day for the parents and teachers of the school.
He also joked about the passionate tenacity of Prinicpal, Mairéad Ní Ruáin, telling the assembly of local officials, parents and members of the community, that sometimes when she phoned him he held the phone very far away from his ear.
Earlier, Mairéad Ni Ruáin described the genesis of her conviction and passion, and that of the many promoters of the school – particularly the late Joe Berry – when she outlined the school’s chequered and sometimes tentative history. The school was established in 1995 by a core committee, the first year the fledgling school had seven pupils enrolled, while the teacher was employed privately to teach the pupils through the medium of Irish. Its first home was the old shoe factory on Altamont Street.
“Enda bhí tú linn ón tús,” Ms Ruáin said.
She then explained that the school received temporary recognition from the Department of Education in 1996, when she was appointed principal with an enrollment of 30 pupils. In 1998, Cathal Hughes gave a site rent-free opposite the train station , she said expressing the gratitude of the school.
She also thanked business men Austin O’Malley and Gus Gibbons for later accommodating the school at a site on the Lodge Road.
A turning point for the school and its proactive campaigners was when, in 2005 with 184 pupils on the roll, it held a mock class on the Octagon to highlight its lack of proper facilities.
She explained that the following year, 2006, ‘word came through that the Department of Education planned to buy two acres of land, owned by the Town Council, on the Lodge Road, known as the Bog Field’.
She observed that the then Town Manager, Peter Hynes, played a central role in this process. Speaking later, Mr Hynes, who is now County Manager, praised his successor, Martin Keating for his work on the project.
Mr Hynes said: “Taoiseach, there are times when local authorities get criticized. Well, direct them to Westport where there is an example of proper development with social and private housing, community facilities all beside this school.”
Concluding, Mairéad Ní Ruáin said: “I will always remember Joe Berry saying to me to ‘let people shine’. Well, now we have arrived and we have thrown the anchor overboard and I can assure you we will not be moving again.”
She thanked the many other politicians involved in delivering the project, including former TDs Beverley Flynn and Dr Jerry Cowley. She also cited the commitment and work of Junior Minister Michael Ring, who attended the launch.
Others speakers at the launch were Sandra Uí Chorcoráin, Chairwoman of the Board of Management, and parent, Fin Mac Aogáin.
Gaelscoil na Cruaiche opened its doors in June 2011 and a year later has over 200 pupils enrolled, 11 fulltime teachers, and an auxiliary staff, which includes a secretary, caretaker, two French teachers, two music tutors, dancing teachers, gardening and art teachers. There is also an all-Irish playschool attached and after-school facility.
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