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‘Scandalous vandalism’


DESTROYED The school hall at Scoil Phádraig has been destroyed by graffiti and vandalised on numerous occasions recently.  Pic: Conor McKeown

Former school a drinking and drug-taking den

Áine Ryan

FOR decades it was Westport town’s centre for primary education. Now it is a derelict drinking and drug-taking den where there could easily be a serious accident or even a fatality.
By all accounts, the dereliction and the continued anti-social behaviour on the old Convent of Mercy site on Altamont Street is mainly happening these days in the former Scoil Phádraig, located on Altamont Street.
One local resident, octogenarian Michael Downes, has now called on ‘the powers that be’ to urgently address the ‘scandalous vandalism’ that is happening on a regular basis, particularly in the school’s former PE and concert hall.
“I’ve witnessed groups of young people going in there, and anyone can see for themselves the impact from the vandalism and the parties they are having,” Mr Downes told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday).
He said that he and other residents on the street had made complaints to the Gardaí, but to no avail so far.
“A local superintendent has visited the site, and I know he was shocked at what he saw. The school was left in immaculate condition when it was closed some years ago, but it is scandalous how it is now. The county council and other agencies must stop passing the buck and address the problem,” he continued.  

Patrolling needed
Whilst the main site is owned by Mayo County Council, the former primary school is owned by the Department of Education, which is embroiled in a standoff with the town’s Holy Trinity NS over the terms of a long-scheduled new school.
Other sources have confirmed that groups of teenagers play loud music and even manage to charge their mobile phones in the building, as the electricity is still live. This, due to the state of the property, could prove to be another danger.
It is understood that a security firm has been employed to monitor the entire site. Windows were boarded up some time ago, but, apparently, a door to the rear of the school is being used to access the building.   
Meanwhile, Mr Downes accompanied Independent county councillor Christy Hyland on an inspection of the site last week.
Speaking yesterday, Cllr Hyland said: “There will be a terrible fatality in the building, which is in serious disrepair, if something isn’t done soon. There is supposed to be a security company employed on the site and we need them as well as gardaí to be patrolling the area.”
He confirmed that he will be raising the issue at the next joint Policing Committee meeting as a matter of urgency. The Mayo News had not received a response to questions put to local Gardaí at the time of going to Press.

ON another note, the standoff appears to be continuing regarding the Department of Education’s proposal to also site the town’s Educate Together school on the site.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, the Principal of Holy Trinity, Orla Brickenden, said: “The anti-social behaviour and the graffiti on the walls could all be stopped if the Department of Education allowed the building of our school to progress. The delay is because they are trying to put two schools on the site, which we have consistently argued is not feasible.
“There are drawings with Mayo County Council and we hope they will do the right thing and reject the Department’s proposal. We are on the Buildings List for long enough,” Ms Brickenden added.     
Responding to a query by The Mayo News yesterday, a spokesperson for Mayo County Council said: “Scoil Phádraig school on Altamont Street is in the ownership of the Sisters of Mercy and Department of Education. We don’t have a role in relation to it.”

Affordable housing
EARLIER this year, Mayo County Council confirmed that a major affordable-housing development would be undertaken in conjunction with a housing body on part of the 4.4 acres site owned. An already existing plan will see the original school, which is also in disrepair, converted into civic offices, with the construction of a library also.