As the deadline looms for responses from four schools the subject of primary restructuring plans, a clear message was sent to trustees of Scoil Mhuire Fatima at the North Mon to withdraw the plans.
It is proposed that the Edmund Rice Schools Trust all-boys school would amalgamate with nearby St Vincent’s convent primary school next September, the new school to be on the St Vincent’s site under Daughters of Charity trusteeship.
Around 600 people marched through the city centre on Saturday afternoon to the Grand Parade where Caroline Barrett said she and other parents were shocked that the Edmund Rice Schools Trust trustees wanted to evict the Mon boys.
The protest was organised by Scoil Mhuire Fatima parents’ association, whose chairperson, Maria Higgins, said the need to assess enrolments and other aspects of local schools is recognised by parents. But she said they have been unable to discuss the matter with the Edmund Rice Schools Trust, so they want the plan off the table and meaningful talks between parents and trustees.
The trustees declined to comment last week on claims of being uncontactable by the school or parents, saying they were leaving the matter for local consultations. Any plans would require the approval of Catholic Bishop John Buckley, whose spokesperson has said anything strongly rejected by the community would not be backed, but also that of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn.
A number of buses are being organised by North Mon parents to theEdmund Rice Schools Trust offices in Dublin on Friday, the deadline set for schools where changes are proposed to respond to their respective trustees.
The North Mon parents have gathered over 6,000 signatures on a petition opposing the amalgamation and the parents of its current 171 pupils have voted overwhelmingly against with just a handful supporting the move.
The protest was also joined by parents of girls at St Vincent’s, where boys attend up to first class and most go on to Scoil Mhuire Fatima. Its parents have also voted strongly against the plan.
Deborah O’Sullivan said fear that the two schools would have to re-apply for DEIS disadvantaged status that gives them extra teachers and other resources is her biggest concern. Her daughter Abbie is in second class and has a hearing impairment, but because it is not pronounced enough to get her own resource teaching hours, she depends on a share of the school’s overall learning support instead.
The opposition to the plans has received cross-party political support, including unanimous backing of Cork City Council last week, and Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy praised the professionalism of the parents’ campaign. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin joined the march and urged the Edmund Rice Schools Trust to enter talks locally, but firstly to withdraw the proposal.
The board of Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers, proposed under the plan to be moved into the North Mon campus if the amalgamation goes ahead, will finalise its position tomorrow night.