Principal hopeful for school build as project list unveiled

A KERRY principal is hoping his school’s inclusion on the latest list of building projects to make progress this year will prove fruitful.

St Brendan’s National School in Blennerville, Co Kerry, was told before the 2007 general election that a design team would be appointed that year, only for funding to fall through after applications were sought.

But principal Michael O’Connor has his fingers crossed that things get off the ground this time around as St Brendan’s is one of 103 schools told this week by Education Minister Mary Coughlan that work will begin on appointing a design team during 2011.

“I’m looking every day at the site the department bought in 2005 and wondering will the school ever be built, but we were confident after pressure last year from [Fianna Fáil TD and former Ceann Comhairle] John O’Donoghue,” he said in response to Monday night’s announcement.

“It’s fantastic to be on the list but I’ll really only know things are moving along when I see the design team appointed,” he said.

More than 70 other schools which have previously not been progressed were also told they would begin the first stage in the building programme this year.

Although opposition parties have described the announcement of more than 400 schools which are expected to move to the next stage in the process as a political stunt, Ms Coughlan has insisted the annual programme is unveiled around this time every year.

Also listed in the programme is Scoil Bhríde in Rathcormac, Co Cork, where the Department of Education says it expects to tender for builders this year. Cork County Council is expected to decide shortly on planning permission for a 12-classroom school to replace the current accommodation.

The school made headlines in 2008 when Fianna Fáil TD Ned O’Keeffe said he would not lobby for their project because he had not received enough votes from the people of Rathcormac in the last general election. Ironically, their inclusion in the 2011 building programme came just hours before Mr O’Keeffe told party colleagues he would not be contesting the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, University of Limerick has announced plans to increase the number of overseas students on campus by half to more than 1,500 in its five-year strategic plan. Despite a severe strain on Government funding, the plan proposes increased funding through commercialising its research, which it also plans to apply more to the benefit of the economy and society.

UL president Professor Don Barry said the university recognises that research areas must be prioritised given the need to target scarce resources for maximum effect. The plan places major focus on providing an outstanding student experience and also on improving UL’s contribution to the local and regional economies.

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