Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Staff at schools are praised by Minister

Staff at the two schools affected by the Omagh fire were last night praised for the professionalism they have shown over the past three days.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane travelled to Omagh yesterday to meet with principals and teachers at St Conor's Primary School and Sacred Heart College where she spoke to them about the tragic events of Tuesday night.

Admitting that the visit was one of the most difficult challenges she has faced to date as minister, Ms Ruane said she was encouraged by the way staff at both schools have reacted since the deaths.

Caroline (13) was a pupil at Sacred Heart and a former pupil of St Conor's.

Younger siblings, James (8) and Bellina (4) also attended the primary school.

The building is adjacent to the scene of the blaze and while it has remained closed, Sacred Heart College has opened.

Teachers at St Conor's were preparing for the pupils' return today - many of whom were friends with James and Bellina. Ms Ruane said that while there are difficult months ahead, she is confident that the resources are available to offer as much help as possible to pupils and staff.

"It is obvious that the teachers loved these children very much so this has been difficult, not just as a minister but also as a mother," she said.

"I am very impressed with the way the teachers have dealt with the situation to date. The time ahead is going to be very tough and what we need to do is take one step at a time and go through all the different processes. It is a very difficult time for the whole community and they need very sensitive support from every level in society.

"The principals have shown great leadership so far. Sacred Heart has remained open and the Department has been working with the NSPCC, Contact Youth, the WELB and the critical response team to ensure that staff and pupils get all the support they need.

"The teachers at St Conor's have been preparing for the return of their pupils tomorrow. They will have lots of questions and it is important that these are answered but the department and boards are behind the schools 100%. "

Donal Flanagan, chief executive of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, offered its sympathies to the families.

"The suddenness and scale of this tragedy has been amplified by the loss of so many young children. Our thoughts and prayers are with the extended family and indeed St Conor's Primary School and Sacred Heart College as they attempt to come to terms with their loss."

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