CAMPAIGN CLOSURE Holy Trinity NS principal Orla Brickenden and her pupils have been campaigning for a new school for some 12 years. They are pictured here at a protest against the Department of Education at the Octagon in Westport in 2020. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
A TWELVE-YEAR long battle finally came to an end last week with the announcement that Westport’s Holy Trinity National School will be getting a new home.
On Friday, there was jubilation when the school received a letter from the Department of Education confirming that they will be the only school located on their new site on Altamount Street.
The existing school building, which is over 200 years old, was declared ‘unfit for purpose’ in 2010 following an inspection.
A new building was first promised for the 62-pupil Church of Ireland school in 2015 by former Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan.
In 2020, staff and students objected to a proposal to co-locate the school with Westport Educate Together on the new site.
The school will be located on the grounds of the former Scoil Padraig, which has fallen into a derelict state in recent years and has attracted anti-social behaviour.
“We would like to thank everyone for the part they have played in securing our school”, said Principal, Orla Brickenden. “We are grateful to all the public representatives, the local councillors, TDs and all of the people who have worked so hard to make this happen. Also, the Minister, Norma Foley and her team for seeing that this is the only fair option for our children.”
The letter sent by the Department of Education to Holy Trinity NS acknowledged the ‘frustration’ caused by the delay to the new school building.
“The Department is currently working to finalise the brief for the project for Holy Trinity NS and will be in further engagement with the school in this respect in the coming days. Once the brief is finalised the Department will work to advance the project into architectural planning as expeditiously as possible, in cognisance of the delays to the date on the project,” it stated.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Holy Trinity National School building committee chairman Eoin Holmes described the previous co-location proposal as ‘unfair and unjust’ to both schools.
“Our tiny little school put up a great little fight, and eventually our message was heard, and listened to, and people realised what was planned was wrong. All we ever asked is that the right thing be done,” he said.
LOCAL TD Michael Ring said he was ‘truly delighted’ with the news.
“I worked consistently on this issue to ensure that Holy Trinity School would be the only new school build on this site.
“They had been approved a new build but the department proposed that a second primary school would be located on this site. Before I left Ministerial office, I got a cast iron guarantee from the former Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, that this would not be allowed to happen. I raised this matter on the floor of the Dáil and continued to raise it at every opportunity. I am very pleased that official confirmation has now been issued to Holy Trinity National School.”
The Cathaoirleach of the Westport/Belmullet Municipal District, Cllr Brendan Mulroy, said everyone at the school had put in ‘a long battle’ and their persistence had been finally rewarded.
“I want to wish Principal Orla Brickenden, and the Board of Management, the parents and all the pupils the very best of luck.
“Twelve years was a long time to be looking for a new building but I want to also thank my councillor colleagues, past and present, for all their lobbying on the behalf of Holy Trinity. This is a good news story for everyone involved,” said Cllr Mulroy.