Army deal clears way for school expansion

CHILDREN are set to storm the walls of Limerick’s Sarsfield Barracks.

And the army are under orders from Defence Minister Willie O’Dea to step aside in the interests of education.

The minister has agreed to give over a plot covering one-third of an acre inside the barrack walls to allow for an expansion of a neighbouring school. The boundary wall separating the barracks and the Irish-speaking Model School is to be moved in the first deal of its kind between the departments of Defence and Education.

Mr O’Dea said it was the first time his department stepped in to help a school by providing space on army property.

The model is the country’s biggest and longest established all-Irish speaking primary school, dating back to 1855. It has 545 boys and girls on its rolls.

It was completely destroyed by fire in 1977 and did not re-open until 1986.

Following the deal with the Department of Defence, the school yesterday launched an appeal to parents, past pupils and friends to support a huge fundraising drive.

Its past pupils include Irish rugby international Paul O’Connell, showband legend Brendan Bowyer and Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan. Mr O’Dea said the deal to make land belonging to the defence forces in Sarsfield Barracks available to the school was an historic one.

Diarmuid Ó Murchú, principal Modhscoil Luimnigh, said: “This means that, for the first time ever, we will have the physical space to plan for growth. It is therefore opportune to kick-start our fundraising campaign now, so that the money needed to upgrade the school to our desired standard is in place in good time.”

The proposed extension of the school will provide a number of new facilities such as a bigger multi-purpose room, an astroturf playing pitch, language laboratory and additional teaching resources for music and computer studies.

These will be in addition to the schedule of improvements to the school facilities proposed by the Department of Education.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “As one of the few remaining Model Schools in Ireland, going back more than 150 years, our mission is to serve as a model of first-level education. This extra funding will help us to continue this tradition into the future, particularly in the areas of technology, languages and music.”

*A special brochure outlining the fund details is available on request from An Mhodhscoil or from www.modhscoil.ie

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