SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster, Patsy McGlone, has welcomed support from the Director of the Catholic Education Post-Primary Review, Gerry Lundy, for a priority new-build school for Holy Trinity College, Cookstown.
The support came during a meeting between Mr Lundy and a cross-party delegation of Cookstown and Mid Ulster representatives at Stormont. Accompanying Mr McGlone were SDLP Cookstown Cllrs Tony Quinn and James McGarvey.
The meeting was arranged following the publication of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE) recommendations for the future of Catholic Post Primary Education.
Speaking afterwards Mr McGlone said, “Following the publication of the NICCE recommendations there was concern at the apparent dismissal of existing plans for a new-build project at Holy Trinity College which has cross-party and local council endorsement.
“NICCE’s confused approach to planning the future for post-primary Catholic schools also ignored Cookstown’s Sub Regional Centre status within the Regional Development Strategy. The creation of an imaginary ‘Greater Dungannon’ by NICCE has distracted from the need for a focus on the education of the children of the Cookstown area.
“At the meeting Mr Lundy was able to confirm that the Holy Trinity new-build has been prioritised and agreed by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and that, while the Education Minister had ‘parked’ the plan, it remains a high priority major capital project.
“We were glad to hear recognition for the need for Holy Trinity to be larger than it is at present.
Cllr Tony Quinn added, “As a former pupil of Holy Trinity I made the point to Mr Lundy that the current situation, where 20-plus mobile classrooms are in use at Holy Trinity, is completely unacceptable. It is a serious social injustice to pupils, teachers and parents alike.
Cllr James McGarvey was critical of the CCMS, “It’s an absolute disgrace that over 600 children are bussed out of Cookstown District on a daily basis, mostly to schools in Dungannon, Donaghmore and Magherafelt.
“Some of these children start their journey at 7am and are not home until 5 or 6 in the evening. These children are being used to keep numbers up in St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, St Joseph’s, Donaghmore and St Mary’s in Magherafelt. The CCMS seem intent on perpetuating this scandal.”
Mr McGlone ended by saying, “Mr Lundy accepted that it was a mistake not to include a date for the business case for the new build for Holy Trinity. He has now made a commitment to have the business case and consultation on it completed by June 2012. However, it is still not clear when the project will begin and whether it will match the vision of the existing plans.
“That the report recommends a stand-alone school for Cookstown is to be welcomed. Mr Lundy’s support for the existing plans for Holy Trinity confirms the school’s role in the future education of Cookstown’s children. Now there must be a focus on progressing those plans and beginning work on the new build project for Holy Trinity College.”