The decision on whether to locate two schools on the former Scoil Phádraig site in Westport is one solely for the Department of Education to make and Mayo County Council has no role to play in it, according to a senior executive of the local authority.
Questions were asked at the recent meeting of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District as to who recommended locating both the Westport Educate Together National School and Holy Trinity NS at the old Scoil Phádraig site on Altamount Street.
Westport-based councillor Peter Flynn felt the fingerprints of an individual in Mayo County Council were all over the decision but this was rejected out of hand by Catherine McConnell, the Director of Services for Mayo County Council.
“Any decision around the school property and how it might be used for one school or two schools is solely the decision of the Department of Education and is nothing to do with us,” she told the online meeting.
“I take a little bit of umbrage at any inference it was left within the walls of Mayo County Council to make those type of calls. We haven’t. We have always tried to engage with the department to get a decent design to facilite the development of the Scoil Phádraig site.
“If it’s one school or two schools it is not our decision. We have given them extensive feedback on what we thought are appropriate standards using the Department of Educations own technical guidance and for the record that would not have supported two schools and we were clear about our concerns on that front. The decision to pursue a one school or two school policy on that site is solely with the department of education.”
The matter was raised at the meeting by Independent councillor Christy Hyland after a small fire broke out in the old school last month. The school building become a hive of anti-social behaviour and Cllr Christy Hyland called for the Department of Education to be served with a derelict notice in order to secure the building.
The site which was previously owned by the Sisters of Mercy and had been initially earmarked as the new home of Holy Trinity NS but last December a proposal were submitted by the Department of Education to Mayo County Council to look at the possibility of locating the Educate Together NS on the site.
Each of the Westport based councillors in the municipal district questioned who suggested the co-location of the two schools on the site. There was an overwhelming opinion that the site should only be made available to Holy Trinity.
“At this stage it is very important that the department of education turn the school over to Holy Trinity and let them in there. Holy Trinity have played a massive part in this town and there is something not right. They [Holy Trinity] have been kicked about from post to pillar and there has been no respect shown to them,” said Cllr Brendan Mulroy.
Cllr Flynn said from his discussions with Westport Educate Together, he understands that they did not ask to be located to the Scoil Phádraig site and knew nothing about what was happening.
“I know we are pointing fingers at the Department of Education but I think we need to come closer to home to answer some of those questions.
“They [Educate Together] never sought to be allocated on Altamount Street but somebody on their behalf seems to be able to speak within the council walls.
“To be honest with you I would be fairly sure whose finger prints are all over this. If you go back to some of the other decisions made in 2017 and 2018, you will find the same typical interference where one individual seems to think better than anyone else and where expediency overrules common-sense and where the public interest is put aside. Unfortunately this has cost Holy Trinity the best part of four years and instead of cutting a ribbon we are left in a really sad situation,” added Cllr Flynn.