Another major street protest is expected to be mounted by pupils and staff at a Co Cork school after it emerged a planned new facility is unlikely to be ready until September 2017.
An action group set up by supporters of Gaelscoil de hIde, Fermoy, is planning another protest over the length of time it is taking to get a new school, and hopes to bring up to 1,000 people onto the streets.
A local councillor has claimed that it will take two more years before pupils can leave their current archaic classroom conditions for a state-of-the-art school.
Labour councillor Noel McCarthy, who has grandchildren attending the 410-pupil school, said that while he hoped his prediction was wrong, he believed it was accurate.
He is contradicting earlier indications of a shorter deadline from Labour junior minister Sean Sherlock, but denies there is any split between within the party locally. Mr McCarthy added that he was not preparing to leave the party and run as an Independent candidate.
In December 2011, the Department of Education promised a new school would be built by September 2014 to facilitate growing student numbers. The deadline was later extended by a year but Mr McCarthy believes that is now unattainable.
“It gives me absolutely no pleasure to say this, but when you look at the slow pace of this project, I can’t see how a new school will be open for business until at least September 2017,” said Mr McCarthy.
“We’ve waited three years just to get to this stage and still the land is not in the hands of the Department of Education. Additionally, the planning phase could go on for some time and tendering for a builder will also not be rushed.”
Last September, Mr Sherlock said the proposed site would be transferred from the Department of the Environment to the Department of Education. The land transaction has still not concluded, although Mr McCarthy said the matter was ready to be signed off.
The gaelscoil’s action group chairwoman, Vivienne Dempsey, said her organisation has sought a meeting with Mr Sherlock to discuss the lack of real progress.
The school was originally built to cater for roughly half the 410 students that currently attend. Some classes are held in a prefab on the already cramped playground.
Local GP Catherine Clifford warned that the children at the gaelscoil have inadequate space in which to run and exercise at a time when the dangers of childhood obesity are so apparent.
“Three years on and nothing to show for it,” Ms Dempsey said. “It’s a disgrace and if people believe this process cannot be accelerated then we don’t agree with them.
“We urge the people of Fermoy and those connected with the school to keep fighting and to demand urgent movement on this issue.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way and so far there has been little will from those who have the power to deliver our new school.”
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