AFTER a 19-year campaign to get a new secondary school in Monasterevin, it looks like the end is finally in sight with confirmation the purchase of the site at Moore Abbey will be “finalised in two or three weeks”.
“That’s what we were told by the Minister,” said St Paul’s principal Brian Bergin.
“It’ll give great confidence to the community when they see the site is acquired. We’ll start dreaming again when it’s acquired,” he added.
On Wednesday (2 October) Minister Joe McHugh became the third Minister of Education to visit St Paul’s, ostensibly to apologise for the two-decade delay in the delivery of the overdue academy, but also to offer an injection of confidence in a process that recently almost saw parents taking direst action in protest.
“He said it was the No.1 priority on his desk, he’s not leaving it to senior officials,” said Cllr Kevin Duffy.
“I thought it was a very good meeting, and gave the Minister a real insight into what we’ve been telling him over the last few months,” said the councillor.
“He could see the reality on the ground, and there was a good interaction between the Minister and the school groups,” he added.
“He couldn’t give an exact date on the purchase of the lands…but in two to three weeks the site will be finalised. We’re very, very close,” said Cllr Duffy who was part of the delegation who welcomed Minister McHugh to the school.
“There was some positivity regarding site acquisition, it’s a priority for the Department [of Education],” said Principal Bergin.
“We’re 19 years waiting, and 15 years since we appeared on the building list,” he reminded us.
“But we’re further now than we’ve ever been before,” he said.
However, he did offer a small note of caution, saying that he wasn’t as excited as he was in 2014 “when we first saw the plans”, and pointed out that in this period “three Ministers, two Tànaistes, and a Leader of the Opposition have visited saying they can get stuff done”.
“We are now ready to move this across the line,” Minister McHugh told the meeting. “I’m really sorry you had to go through all these delays.”
He was able to confirm that the design team had been given the green light for the tender stage, which is expected to be completed in May next year before an 18-month build timeline will deliver the new school by the end of 2021.
“The agreement to buy the site was made years ago, and it has never been in jeopardy. No-one ever said ‘we’re not going to sell it’, but this took time to go through the process,” said Cllr Duffy.
It was previously hoped that the new school would be delivered before the end of 2019 but a court case related to the tendering process late last year delayed the process.