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Gaelscoil open day bids to resolve row

June 28, 2011

A SCHOOL at the centre of bitter controversy over plans for a new building has invited public representatives to an open day today to hear its side of the story.

The newly formed Parents and Teachers Action Group from Gaelscoil an Goirt Álainn in Cork said they are “extremely hurt and frustrated” and feel strongly that the pupils have been forgotten and neglected throughout the long-running saga. “We have tried our best as parents and teachers to reach out to the community to allay fears in the public and have been constantly beaten down by certain people,” the group said. “We have been likened to the Taliban, been called ‘snobbish’ and referred to as ‘elitist’, while all the time remaining positive and keeping the greatest need, that of our children, to the fore of our energies.

“This is despite 24/7 intimidation of those ‘Save Our Tank Field’ signs publicly displayed along the children’s route to school, to their local shops or even to Mass.” The school has been based in temporary prefab accommodation on the grounds of Brian Dillon’s GAA Club next to the Tank Field for the last 13 years. After years of campaigning, the Department of Education finally lodged a planning application with Cork City Council for a 16-classroom school on a portion of the Tank Field, which is zoned for sports use.
A rezoning, which would require two-thirds of the city’s 31 councillors to vote in favour, was needed for the building go ahead. City planners gave the project the green light but in July 2007 just 15 councillors voted in favour of rezoning.

The Department of Education appealed the vote and in March 2008, An Bord Pleanála granted planning. However, problems with the plan emerged in September 2009 and the project went back to the drawing board. Almost a year later, former city manager Joe Gavin said a new planning application would be needed. In the meantime, the school secured permission for an extension to its prefabs. Last March, the department lodged its revised plans and last month, city planners gave the new project the green light. Now another rezoning vote is imminent. The controversy has split the community in Mayfield. The Murmount Park Residents’ Association has been among the most vocal opponents arguing that the green space should be retained. It has also argued that the department should build the school on other sites. Supporters of the new school have marched through Cork city, and pointed out that of 376 observations and submissions lodged during the planning process, 269 were in favour of the new school. The action group has invited all councillors and media to an open day at the school today.

Irish Examiner – Eoin English