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Holy Trinity still in limbo 12 years on

News

PROTEST Holy Trinity NS principal Orla Brickenden and pupil Ben Kinghan leading a protest against the Department of Education at the Octagon in Westport in 2020. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Oisín McGovern

THERE are still no plans in place to construct a new school building for Holy Trinity National School in Westport.
Twelve years after the building was declared ‘unfit for purpose’ by the Department of Education, the new building is currently at ‘Project Brief Stage’ and has still not been tendered.
School principal, Orla Brickenden, and the Board of Management are calling on Education Minister Norma Foley, to ‘do the right thing’ and begin building ‘without delay’.
A new building for the school was first announced by former Minister for Education Jan O’Sullivan in November 2015.
The Church of Ireland school, which is over 200 years old, is currently full to capacity with 62 pupils.
Due to Covid-19 ventilation guidelines, staff are unable to adequately heat the school building.  The site of the former Scoil Phadraig building on Altamount Street had been earmarked as the new location for Holy Trinity NS.
In December 2020, a proposal was submitted by the Department of Education to Mayo County Council to look at the possibility of locating the local Educate Together on the site.
In June 2020, staff and students protested publicly against plans to co-locate the school along Westport Educate Together.
A recent statement from the staff and Board of Management of Holy Trinity NS said that ‘the attempt by the Department to squash two schools onto Holy Trinity’s site would compromise the pupils in both schools’.
The site of the former Scoil Phadraig is currently in a derelict state and has attracted vandalism and anti-social behaviour in recent years.
Westport Education Together had been refused planning permission for a site on Prospect Hill by Mayo County Council and An Bord Pleanála after the Department of Education had committed to funding a new school.
Holy Trinity NS Building Committee chairman Eoin Holmes said the department had failed to exercise ‘due diligence’ when they committed to funding a new Educate Together school building.
“They committed the state to spending taxpayers money on a school before establishing for sure whether or not it had a home,” Mr Holmes told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday afternoon. “They established a school in a town that already has too many school places … without first establishing whether there was a guaranteed house or accommodation to put the school into.
“When they discovered there wasn’t a home for the school, even though they made the mistake, we the Church of Ireland school in Westport could pay for their mistake by having our site severely compromised. Their proposal was to stuff two alternative ethos schools onto a site that was too small, even for the Department of Education’s own guidelines.”
Mr Holmes said that a four-classroom school is needed to meet the requirements of Holy Trinity NS, which hopes to expand it’s enrolment to over 100 students.
“There’s something I want to make absolutely clear. We have no issue with the local Educate Together School Community,” he added.
“We feel that they too should be given a proper school site and that their children too should be treated with respect, equality and fairness in this matter.”