Dempsey slammed over threat to close school

INFURIATED parents and students last night accused Education Minister Noel Dempsey of double standards as he attempts to close their 150 year-old secondary school.

Four schools in Minister Dempsey's backyard are smaller than the school on the Kilkenny/Carlow border he is trying to close, according to parents from Goresbridge, who protested outside the Dáil yesterday.

Second year student, Lee-Anne Corcoran, aged 14, pleaded with Noel Dempsey not to close her school.

"It's such a small school and that's what we like. It's like a family. Everybody knows everybody and the teachers are great," she said.

Carlow VEC chairman, Denis Foley said it was not acceptable that the Minister wouldn't even meet school officials. Minister Dempsey sent the school a letter two months ago, indicating it would be closed down over the next two years because the trustees, the Brigidine Order, were pulling out.

However, despite persistent requests, Minister Dempsey has not met with representatives of the school.

Parents have figures which show the school is not just sustainable, but critical to their town. They want the VEC to take it over and for the Department to make funds available to allow this to happen. The school's trustees also agree to such a move. And they say it's not fair to try to close their school while letting others in and around his own constituency open.

Abylity Secondary School in the Minister's backyard, the two schools in Athboy and Longwood Secondary School are all smaller than St Bridget's, parents argue.

"I would plead with the Minister. They are very distressed and it's an excellent school," said mother of two students, Deirdre Lillis.

Principal, John McDonald, was one of the 100 outside the Dáil yesterday.

He said the government proposes spending €700,000 providing temporary accommodation for the school to allow the existing building to be sold. But what parents and the community at large want is for just €600,000 more to be spent to keep the school open and upgrade it to the standard required.

"The Minister is a logical man. But he's trying to put the cart before the horse. He wants us to prove the school is viable, yet at the same time, when there is uncertainty about its future, it's a difficult task.

"If the school building is sold, we won't just be losing a school. We'll be losing an invaluable community asset.

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