New-build for St. Joseph’s “a vote of confidence” says Principal

June 30, 2014

The years of lobbying and campaigning for a new school for St. Joseph’s High in Crossmaglen have finally come to fruition with the news that Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has confirmed the ageing premises is to be replaced with a modern, state-of-the-art new-build.

On Tuesday last the Minister announced a £170million investment across 16 schools in Northern Ireland, naming St. Joseph’s in Crossmaglen as one of those that will benefit from the funding.

The delighted Principal of St. Joseph’s, Mr John Jones, said the news is welcomed by the whole school and south Armagh community who, he said, see it as “a vote of confidence in the standard of education which is available in the heart of south Armagh”.

Speaking to The Examiner, Mr Jones said: “Obviously the Department of Education see St Joseph’s as a viable and sustainable school and a key player in the area planning process. The investment plan means that the children of South Armagh will be able to receive a first class education in modern and state of the art facilities.

“The Minister’s announcement represents good news for the school and for the local community. It is also good news for the economy. With £14.5million of capital investment this will be a welcome boost for the construction industry over the coming years,” he added.

Mr Jones, along with Mr Tom McKay, Chairman of the Board of Governors, acknowledged the work and support of the local and national representatives in helping to bring this project to fruition – namely Megan Fearon MLA, Terry Hearty (Councillor and Governor), Conor Murphy Sinn Fein MP, Geraldine Donnelly (Councillor and Governor) and SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley. They also acknowledged the support given by Mr Gerry Lundy from CCMS.

The proud principal explained how the “Scoil Nua” campaign had gathered momentum this year with the Student Council, senior staff, governors and elected representatives working tirelessly to press for a new school building.

“I would like thank the Student Council and Mrs R Burns who were very proactive in raising awareness about the lack of modern facilities in the school,” Mr Jones said.

“Tribute must also be paid to former principals Mr Kevin Scally, Mr Frank McCreesh and Mr Bernard Crilly and Boards of Governors who have all been vociferous in the past about the need for better facilities for the young people of south Armagh.”

This news of the long awaited new build comes as St Joseph’s celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, having served the south Armagh community for 50 years since first opening its doors on 7th September 1964 under the leadership of Mr Archie McMullan.

Welcoming the news, Sinn Fein MLA, Megan Fearon, said: “It is fantastic to think that the pupils of St Joseph’s will soon have state of the art facilities and equipment and I know that this will further enhance the educational experiences of those attending this exemplary school.”

SDLP Councillor Geraldine Donnelly, who is also a member of the Board of Governors, said the announcement of a new school marked “a fantastic day for Crossmaglen and south Armagh”.

“Mr Jones and the staff have been working in less than adequate conditions for far too long and this news will be very much welcomed by everyone in the area,” she said.

Timescales have not yet been decided but every effort will be made to expedite the process. Planning and a business case for the new school will begin in September.