Méid an Téacs

Pupils march their way to new school

Lúnasa 29, 2013

It was a long, long, road which, in the end, culminated in a short walk that brought a town to a standstill. People lined the streets of Clonakilty , Co Cork, yesterday to cheer hundreds of pupils as they walked from a rented school to a new, state-of-the-art €3.17m home.

A gaelscoil was founded in the West Cork town in 1994 and, since then, pupils and staff had a fairly nomadic life. Yesterday represented their seventh and, hopefully, final move. Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin is named in honour of locally-born General Michael Collins, the state’ s first finance minister.
Among the teachers is Lorna Ni hAoda who had been a pupil at the gaelscoil in 1996. “At the time, we were in a house in Emmet Square. We had three classrooms and no proper facilities. There was no hall and a tiny yard. The facilities here are amazing. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’ s like all our Christmases have come together,” she said.
Principal Carmel Nic Airt, meanwhile, was the first teacher to launch the gaelscoil with 20pupils. “At one point, from 1999 to 2009, we were in a field with 29 prefabs. There was damp everywhere and, every weekend, we had to spray the walls to get rid of the mould, ” she said. “Now we have 12 mainstream classroom, three ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) units, four support units, basketball courts and a soft surface play areas for autistic pupils. If you were to write a wish list for a school this has everything and more. ”
The pupils vacated the school’s last leased accommodation, at The Waterfront yesterday, walking behind a garda escort provided by local gardaí Liam Ryan and Keith Prendergast. As they strode through the town, people spilled out of shops and clapped them all the way to their new home at Fernhill Rd on the western side of the town.
Parent Carmel Brennan described it as “a wonderful and historic day”. She said some of the conditions pupils had endured over the years “were less than ideal”. As the children entered the school, they gave ‘high fives’ to curate Fr Eddie Collins. They then sang the national anthem and raised their own
school flag. Relatives of General Michael Collins, including grandnephew Maurice Collins, grandniece Fidelma Collins and great grandniece Muirenn O’Sullivan, were among the guests of honour. She told pupils Collins would be very honoured to have the school named after him.
To cap the occasion, Timothy Crowley, who runs a local Michael Collins Interpretive Centre, presented the school with a small replica statue of the great man. It’ s a miniature, but an exact copy of a seven-feet high sculpture, unveiled by actor Liam Neeson in the town’ s Emmet Square 11 years ago.