‘Sense of euphoria’ with new school approvals

August 10, 2010

by Brónagh Murphy

MP for the area, Conor Murphy, says the news that Dromintee and Forkhill are to get two new primary schools  is a ‘tremendous boost’ and has created a ‘sense of euphoria’ throughout the whole south Armagh area.

“There is a general sense of euphoria because both schools have been successful in securing the funding and all the people associated with them have been campaigning very hard for many years,” Mr Murphy said.

“I am delighted for the staff, pupils and parents.  They have all worked very hard to put together a sustainable programme and business plan and their hard work has come to fruition.

“These new schools will ensure that children in the Forkhill and Dromintee catchment areas will continue to avail of the excellent standard of education currently being delivered by their teachers for many years to come.”

St. Oliver Plunkett’s P.S. Forkhill – £1.841million

Mrs Frances Hannaway was appointed as Principal of St. Oliver Plunkett’s Primary School in Forkhill at the beginning of June and, as a result, did not have an active role in its campaign for a new school.  However she is no less enthusiastic and shares the delight of her staff and pupils at the news.  She extended her appreciation to those who worked hard to achieve this successful outcome and promised to ‘take up the mantle’ and see the project through to fruition.

On behalf of the school, Mrs Hannaway expressed the delight felt by all involved.

“All those involved with St. Oliver Plunkett’s, Forkhill are delighted at the prospect of finally realising the dream of a new school.  This project has been in the pipeline for many years, driven by the Trustees, Board of Governors and staff,” she said.

“The wonderful news from the Minister of Education has and will give a tremendous boost not only to the children, staff and parents, but also to the village of Forkhill and the wider community.

“We are also very pleased that our neighbouring school in Dromintee has received the same good news and we wish them well with their project,” she added.

Looking forward

St. Oliver Plunkett’s was established in 1858 and the original building still exists with a number of extensions.  However, given its aging infrastructure and the demands placed on it by delivering a modern education, the existing building is no longer fit for purpose in educational terms for the 21st century. The classrooms are undersized, dark and difficult to heat.  The school itself has no cloakroom areas for children, limited toilet facilities, no indoor space large enough for PE activities or drama and the school has to seek the use of other premises if, for example, we wish to put on a school show.  There is no on-site parking and children enter the premises directly from the street.  In short, this building, which has been well known and supported by generations, can no longer meet the needs of those it serves.

Mrs Hannaway says the close community spirit that exists in the current school will carry through when they move to their new premises.

“On my arrival in June I was impressed with the excellent use made by the staff of the limited facilities available and the warmth of relationships and happiness of the children,” she said.

“Whilst we will be sad to leave the existing site, the ethos that is St.Oliver Plunkett’s will continue to live on and prosper in the new school, serving Forkhill and surrounding areas.  The new school will certainly create many more opportunities for our children given the much greater space available, in a modern facility – it is no more than they deserve.

“The announcement represents a new chapter in the life of St Oliver Plunkett’s school and its place within the Forkhill community.  We wish to acknowledge the support of CCMS and thank the Department of Education for their work on behalf of the school.  The Trustees and staff look forward to working with Aisling McStravick of Hughes McMichael Project Managers and Martin Ellis of PHP Architects, as we begin building the new school.”

Dromintee P.S. -£2.046million

For the whole of her 26-year tenure as Principal, Mrs Pauline McMahon, has continually campaigned for a new school.  Indeed former Principal, Mr Gerry McQuade, had instigated the initial campaign back in the 1970s and he was on hand on Friday to greet Minister Ruane when she visited the school with news of the new build.

Expressing her delight at the news, Mrs McMahon said it was a wonderful day for the whole school community.

“We are over the moon that our new school has been sanctioned and funded at last,” she told The Examiner.

“We have been planning for this day since the late 1970s but we really took the campaign in earnest after Martin McGuinness’s visit in 2004 when he saw at first hand the conditions the pupils and staff were working within. The visit resulted in some remedial work being done to the building with the Minister’s promise that he would give our campaign his full support.  Since then we have acquired a very suitable site adjacent to the school campus, building permission was granted and after many delays and fruitless promises this glorious day has arrived.”

Mrs McMahon paid tribute to the many people involved in the campaign.

“It is a wonderful occasion for the pupils, staff, Board of Governors and the entire community of Dromintee, south Armagh,” she said.

“I want to thank everyone associated with this achievement, especially all of the Board of Governors led by Fr Dermot Maloney, Councillor Anthony Flynn and Conor Murphy MP, MLA, our always supportive parents and, of course, the Minister of Education, Catriona Ruane MLA.

“It was a team effort for us to get this far.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the excavators on site and our vision becoming reality.”

Looking forward to next month when she will begin a new school year that will bring about many changes, she added: “The children from Dromintee deserve appropriate educational facilities where the entire Revised Curriculum is delivered in a stimulating, child-friendly environment and where health and safety is at the fore.

“Now we will return to school in September full of hope and anticipation with the knowledge that this will be the final full academic year in this inadequate, dilapidated school building – it’s an amazing, positive realisation.”


Speaking on behalf of some of the parents, Elena McGenity said they are ‘delighted and excited’ that funding has been approved for a new school and congratulated Mrs McMahon, the teachers, staff and Councillor Anthony Flynn for all their hard work.

She pointed out that a Parents’ Committee is currently in the process of being formed and a meeting has been organised for Tuesday 10th August at 8.00pm in Dromintee GAC club.