Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

GAA star brands school’s Board of Governors a ‘disgrace’ in nursery place row

Former Armagh Captain, Stephen McDonnell, has branded the Board of Governors at Cloughoge Primary School a “disgrace” after receiving confirmation that his 3 year old son has not been granted a nursery place there after an appeal against the decision was deemed unsuccessful.

Mr McDonnell was informed back in April that his youngest son Cahir could not attend Cloughoge Nursery as the school believed that he lived outside the parish boundaries used in its admissions criteria.  Mr McDonnell firmly disputed that fact, insisting his family live in the parish of Upper Killeavy and not Middle Killeavy which the school’s boundary map places his home in.

Cloughoge Primary School and Nursery Unit, which is just half a mile from the McDonnell home, received 70 applications for its 52 place unit this year and its admissions criteria gives preference to children residing in the parish of Upper Killeavy.

Mr McDonnell, whose two sons attend Cloughoge School, said he was “stunned” by the school’s decision to deny his son a place as he and his family are adamant they live and have always lived within the parish boundaries of Upper Killeavy.

Speaking to The Examiner in June, after education authorities rejected the family’s appeal against the decision, he angrily claimed that evidence he provided to the Independent Appeal Tribunal which, he said, proved the family home is in Upper Killeavy , had been ignored.

Parish collection envelopes issued to the family by Parish Priest Fr Naughton clearly state the family’s address is in Upper Killeavy.  Letters from SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley and the Killeavy GAC were also presented to the appeal tribunal, stating that the McDonnell family live in Upper Killeavy.

The All-Ireland winner also claims that he was never able to obtain an official parish boundary map and that a roughly sketched parish boundary map materialised during the appeal tribunal.  According to Mr McDonnell, he and his wife were advised in their initial meeting with Principal Kate O’Hanlon that a parish boundary map would be made available but this was never forthcoming.

Upon receiving confirmation last week that Cahir had not been granted a place in Cloughoge Nursery, Mr McDonnell took to Facebook to vent his anger at the debacle and publicise the family’s plight.  Posting photographs of the letters received from the Education Authority in June, Mr McDonnell said,

“Our argument in this case is that we live in the parish of Upper Killeavy and not that of Middle Killeavy which is the criterion that Cahir was categorised on.

“We have 2 sons at the school presently and our daughter has gone through the school. Both myself and my wife Lisa also attended the school and have a lifetime affiliation with the school.

“During our appeal we were told that letters provided by ourselves from Dominic Bradley Mla and Killeavy GAC as well as Parish donation envelopes stating our residence in the parish of Upper Killeavy would be taken into consideration as long as we agreed to the so called parish boundary map which could not be located during the appeal hearing was considered.

“We were lied to. On the letter as you can see, our letters were not considered yet the map that could not be located was.”

Mr McDonnell described the situation as a “disgrace of the highest order and one that we will not stay quiet about,” before asking people to judge for themselves as to the integrity of the official parish boundary map.  He invited Facebook users to share his post with local councillors, media channels, newspapers and “anyone else that will help us in our campaign and get our story out there.”

The family have vowed to “fight this until the end and there is no way we will stay quiet about it” before slamming  the board of governors of Cloughoge school as “a disgrace.”