Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Disappointment as former school site is offered for sale

By Diarmúid Pepper

Local residents of Crossmaglen have spoken to The Examiner expressing their sadness and disappointment at the proposed sale of the Anamar Primary School site.

The primary school closed in 2017 amidst a steady decline in pupil enrolment. 

The Department of Education’s permanent secretary Derek Baker said at the time that “careful consideration” led to the decision to close the school which had only filled 26 of their 91 places that academic year. 

The school had served the local community for over 175 years before shutting its doors.

Less than two years after this closure, residents have been left further angered by the appearance of “For Sale” signs on the former school property. 

Speaking to The Examiner, Sarah Armstrong appealed for the local Parish to work together with the community. She said: “We want to turn the former school into a community resource. 

“Working alongside local councillor Terry Hearty, we have proposed multiple uses for the building, such as ‘Men Sheds’ and adult learning and family orientated facilities.”

However, she says her plans have been continually frustrated by the Upper Creggan Parish, who are entrusted with the property. 

“We have attempted multiple times to collaborate with the trustee of the school and current Upper Creggan Parish Priest Fr Dermot Maloney, as well as the Upper Creggan Parish Financial Committee. 

“We have written countless times and after much persistence we have had three official meetings with the Parish Financial Committee, but unfortunately nothing came to fruition. We are so disappointed and disheartened. 

“We wanted to bring this to light to everyone who holds the former school and its grounds in such high esteem and before it is sold off to the highest bidder. The Parish Financial Committee has yet to officially respond to, or oppose, our proposal.”

Indeed, The Examiner didn’t get a response from the Parish either, as they failed to respond to email and telephone requests for comment. 

Sarah acknowledges that the site in its current state is an “eyesore” but she believes that the building has the potential to become a much needed resource for the community. 

Sarah said that she approached both the Parish and the Department of Education with a proposal to redevelop the site. 

She revealed: “This journey first started in August 2018; over the last ten months we have held meetings in an attempt to work together in order to maximise this resource for both Upper and Lower Creggan Parishes and offer numerous opportunities for its Parishioners.

“Our journey has taken us to a stage where the Education Board is willing to work with us in our vision to deliver social, educational and recreational activities that will have a direct and positive effect on the wellbeing of the community and improve the quality of life for residents. 

“Unfortunately, our attempts were not met with the same interest by the Parish Financial Committee.”