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BROAD SMILES Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, raises the green flag at Barnacogue NS, watched by Dr Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry; Carmel Sherlock, School  Principal; Mary Smyth, teacher; Cllrs Joe Mellett and Gerry Murray; Fr Tommy Johnston, Sharon Cameron, Environmental Awareness Officer, Mayo County Council; pupils and members of the Board of Management. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Good times roll around for Barnacogue school

Michael Commins

IN the valley of the hill country near Knock Airport, the people of Barnacogue were in the spotlight last Monday week. It was a proud occasion for the 110-year-old school with the raising of the green flag and the opening of the fine new general purposes room by Government Minister, Éamon Ó Cuív.
For school principal Carmel Sherlock (nee Morley), this was a truly special day. There was a time when numbers at the school had dwindled to around 15 but today there are more than three times that number on the roll books. Mary Smyth, the other member of staff, was the coordinator behind the green flag venture at the school.
The pupils staged an enjoyable drama with a strong environmental theme which was written and directed by Margaret Niland from Kilkelly. In the space of three weeks, they managed to produce a lovely presentation which delighted all in attendance. There were special words of thanks for Margaret Niland and also for Marian Egan, who teaches music in the region.
Minister Ó Cuív presided at the cutting of the tape for the new extension room, while the new Bishop of Achonry, Rev Brendan Kelly, performed the blessing ceremony. Also present were Fr Tommy Johnson and Fr Michael Maloney.
The news in recent days that Minister Éamon Ó Cuív had sanctioned €60,000 for the school under the Dormant Accounts Fund ensured that there was an extra warm welcome for the man from Corr na Móna.
Minister Ó Cuív said that decisions politicians make can often have a big effect on people’s lives, for better or worse. One decision for the better was made some years ago in relation to reducing the numbers needed to hold a second teacher in a primary school. “We want to see small communities growing and thriving. I often think that when Msgr Horan built the airport here, not only did he change the physical aspect of the area but also the mindset of the people.”
Bishop Brendan Kelly said days like these bring all the generations together. He joined in the tributes to the teachers and the Board of Management and local community. “The Green Flag is a movement of the future and it is wonderful to see it. We have to conserve and protect our natural environment.”
Carmel Sherlock expressed thanks to the many people who had worked so hard to bring about this occasion. She said the visits by the Minister and the Bishop had ‘re-energised’ the community. “The people here have a great sense of community and pride in their local area and a tremendous sense of loyalty to their own community,” she said.
There were also special words of thanks for Mary Smyth, Lorraine Bullard, Marie Burke, Marian Egan, Julie Smith, Margaret McNicholas, Dominick Cassidy, Michael Lynskey, the architect John Halligan (a past pupil of the school), Peter Rushe, and the ladies of Barnacogue.
On behalf of Mayo County Council, Sharon Cameron, Environmental Awareness Officer, congratulated all in the school on putting the environment centre stage and securing the honour of green flag status.
Among the public representatives lending their support were Deputies John O’Mahony and Enda Kenny, Senator John Carty, and Councillors Gerry Murray and Joe Mellett.
It was a day to remember and cherish in the life of the Barnacogue community.


Kinaffe green flag success lies in H2O


Anna-Marie Flynn
  
IT might not be the county’s best-known waterway, but the River Trimogue has gracefully flowed through the Mayo countryside for generations, slicing the rural heartland that lies between Swinford and Kiltimagh.
Last week, the tributary of the River Moy basked in a new-found glory. The award of the green flag at nearby Kinaffe National School told tales of how the river’s waters served as the starting point of an extensive environmental study.
The completed Green Schools programme at the two-teacher rural school focused on a theme of water in a comprehensive investigation that booked the place of the third such flag at the school grounds.
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Seamus Weir, in his final week of duties as the county’s first citizen, was on hand to officially elevate the symbolic standard on Tuesday morning last.
Attending the ceremony, Mayo County Council Environmental Awareness Officer, Sharon Cameron, lauded the achievement of the school and the ambitious nature of the two-year study.  “Water is one thing we tend to take for granted. Oftentimes children and adults know little about their supply other than the fact it comes out of the tap. It can be the case that people are not aware of their water scheme, or even, in some cases, the well, which is the source of this vital resource.”
Having already focused on litter and waste, this year’s plan moved away from the typical environmental fields into a topic that was somewhat more challenging for both the pupils and teachers.
“As part of the programme, the 26 children here had to learn about conservation methods, even small things like turning off the tap when washing teeth and not letting the water run away. They also monitored the usage in the home as well as school to chart where water could be saved. The real wake-up call in this study was each child coming to the realisation that water is scarce. It is not guaranteed to be there every time we turn on the tap so conserving it is now hugely important,” said Ms Cameron.
School Principal, Margaret Noone, supported by teacher Ann McLoughin and substitute, Majella Basquil-Regan, said the project overlapped with the science course and the road to the achievement was integrated into daily classroom activities. “All the classes were fascinated by what they learned about water and in this way it really brought the science course to life in the classroom. We had a new meter installed in the school so the idea of gauging usage was very real for the children. Starting at River Trimogue was very interesting and, although it can be daunting at the outset, the children really gave it their all.”
With the study not confined to the four walls of the classroom, Fine Gael councillor, Eugene Lavin, noted the importance of the wider support network around Kinaffe NS. “The most exciting thing about this entire project is the community element involved. The school gets the parents and even grandparents to take part and the message of environmental issues is spread far and wide as a result. The children had to monitor water usage and carry out projects at home, which means the family must take part. That is at the very centre of this,” he said.


Musical genius marks Knockanillo’s green flag

Anna-Marie Flynn

RURAL Mayo schools are not normally considered a breeding ground for rap artists. However, record label bosses may want to take note for future reference if a novel reinvention of a Black Eyed Peas song, dubbed ‘Our Dump’, performed at Knockanillo National School Green Flag ceremony last week, is anything to go by.
Senior pupils (who like Jay-Z are known on first-name basis only) Jason, Gary and Luke, fronted the rendition of the pop song to really get the party started at the Ballina school last Tuesday. So much so, that even the county’s first citizen, Cllr Seamus Weir, admitted it was ‘a very hard act to follow’.
Officiating at the celebratory ceremony to elevate the two-teacher school’s first green flag, the Cathaoirleach described the occasion as ‘extremely significant on a personal level’.
“I have very close connections to this school as my own grandparents were from the area and my aunts attended this school. My childhood memories are of cutting turf and bringing it home past this very school yard so this truly is a special day for me.”
Just one year to the day after his election as County Chairperson, Cllr Weir said he was delighted the calendar was awarding him a few extra days to facilitate his attendance at the ceremony before he handed over the chain.
“Children learn quicker than adults and these pupils are setting the example for all others to follow for the good of our environment in our community, county and even country,” added the Cathaoirleach.
Principal, Geraldine Durkan, said the school’s green flag award was a ‘wonderful achievement’. “This is something we have all worked towards for the last 18 months so it is fantastic to see all that hard work lead to such a huge celebration for our school,” she said.
On behalf of the Board of Management, Fr Pat Munnelly thanked the parents of the pupils for their continuous support with the project. “This school is a hive of activity and this achievement really is a milestone for everyone. The effort of all involved has led to making the environment safer, greener and cleaner and that is something that must be commended,” he said.
Mayo County Council Environmental Awareness Officer, Mary Forde, was also in attendance to express her congratulations to Principal Durkan and teacher Ciara Mullaney, as well as the pupils and parents of Knockanillo NS.
A school Mass was followed by special performances by the junior and senior rooms who were assisted by music teacher Peter Neary to formally celebrate the achievement.