Belfast Telegraph

Car park as a playground: Irish-language school still without building

Bunscoil an Traonaigh / Credit: The Detail
Bunscoil an Traonaigh / Credit: The Detail

Fermanagh's only Irish-language primary school remains in temporary accommodation, despite a promise made by the Department of Education in 2015.

The Department now faces a legal challenge over failing to relocate Bunscoil an Traonaigh two-and-a-half years after the move was approved.

The school is currently made up of three temporary classrooms, one of which is used as a canteen and also to teach P5-P7 pupils, and the school's car park doubles as a play area.

Investigative site The Detail reports a parent of one of the pupils has threatened to take High Court action over the poor conditions faced by the growing number of pupils who attend the school.

Pupil numbers were at 12 when the school opened in 2004, and have risen to 60 students enrolled for the 2018/19 year set to begin in September.

Speaking to the website, the school's principal Sorcha Ni Mhurchu said: "“There just isn’t enough space for children to be able to enter school safely or to be able to play safely.

“We are deeply disappointed we are still here. We heard in 2015 we were going to be moving to the new site, Lisnaskea High School.

“If we were on the new site it would certainly help to attract new pupils and help with the growth of Irish medium education in Fermanagh in general.”

In 2015 the then minister for education John O'Dowd said the school's current premises were "not suitable" to be its permanent home, and a move to the former Lisnaskea High School site would allow the school to "grow and develop".

Under the Education (NI) Order 1998 the Department has an obligation to encourage and facilitate the development of Irish medium education - with a similar obligation existing for integrated education.

Responding to The Detail, a spokesperson for the Department said: "Before leaving office, the previous Minister was clear that the Lisnaskea High School site should be split to allocate a portion for use by Bunscoil an Traonaigh.

“That remains the Department’s current position. However against a constrained capital budget position, funding is not currently available to progress the school’s relocation in the short term."

It was proposed the former Lisnaskea High School would be split with the South East Fermanagh Foundation (SEFF), which describes itself as a group for victims / survivors of terrorism.

Sinn Fein MLA Sean Lynch called on the Department of Education to stop "dragging their heels".

“This decision was made as the current site of Bunscoil An Traonaigh is not fit for purpose and the inadequate conditions are holding the school back from developing and attracting new pupils," he said.

“It’s ridiculous that two-and-a-half-years on, the school has not yet been relocated to the new site."

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