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Anger at John O'Dowd's Irish school move


John O'Dowd

John O'Dowd

John O'Dowd

The Education Minister has been lambasted after announcing that an Irish language school with just 40 pupils will now be located on the site of a 140-pupil school that he closed due to low numbers.

Bunscoil an Traonaigh is to be relocated to the site of Lisnaskea High School, just two years after the controlled secondary in Fermanagh was shut.

In 2013 when Education Minister John O'Dowd announced the closure of Lisnaskea High, to be amalgamated with Devenish College, he said the school "is no longer sustainable", adding it was "too late to reverse years of falling numbers".

Bunscoil an Traonaigh was established in 2004 and moved to its current site at Drumbrughas North, Lisnaskea, in 2007.

The chairman of Stormont's Education Committee has accused Sinn Fein of damaging education in Northern Ireland because of its "ideological obsession" with the Irish language.

"The tunnel vision of Sinn Fein in supporting the creation of new Irish language schools, without genuine justification of parental demand, at the expense of all other sectors, is damaging education provision in Northern Ireland," the DUP's Peter Weir said.

"The latest decision to allow a school with only 40 pupils to use the old Lisnaskea High School site would be laughable if it were not so serious. It is a costly diversion of resources from a hard pressed education system."

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Announcing his decision last week, Minister O'Dowd said he had agreed to release a portion of the site to accommodate Bunscoil an Traonaigh.

A local community group, South East Fermanagh Foundation had also expressed an interest and will now have the opportunity to acquire the remainder of the site, he said.

Mr O'Dowd said: "My decision to split the use of this site allows the whole community to benefit.

"The current premises occupied by Bunscoil an Traonaigh is not suitable for the permanent location of the school and this new site at the former Lisnaksea High School will allow the school to grow and develop," he added.

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