GARDAÍ recently maintained a presence at Coláiste Lorcáin secondary school in Castledermot in response to comments made online but the principal has stressed that there was never any threat to the school.
Principal Eric Gaughran said that about three weeks ago, in the midst of a Snapchat group conversation late at night outside of school, reference was made to a person having access to guns. He explained that the following day students involved went to some of the staff, including himself, while one of the parents brought her child to gardaí in Carlow who began an investigation. The school contacted gardaí in Castledermot.
Mr Gaughan noted that gardaí spoke to that person for clarification – they are entirely in the clear – and said that their name was being used “inappropriately as the author of malicious content… on Snapchat”.
Mr Gaughran confirmed that local gardaí had an active presence in the school over a period of about a week-and-a-half to ensure everything was fine, and said there was no threat to the school. “There was never a threat made against the school and there was never a threat that an incident would happen last Friday,” he said, later noting that concerns may have been shared by parents on social media the previous night.
Some parents have said they weren’t informed of the situation by the school – Carrie Nolan, whose son attends Coláiste Lorcáin, said she was told on the street in Athy by another parent and raised concerns about the way it was handled by the principal. “I’m very worried about sending my son back there as I feel he’s not safe,” she added.
Annette Keane Jones explained that her daughter had told her about the situation and that she phoned the school. She said that she spoke to another mother she knew who didn’t know what she was talking about and that a text or letter should have been sent out.
Mr Gaughran acknowledged that there had been criticism and said they were in a difficult position, between saying something and potentially escalating fear “to a high level in a small community” and keeping the matter confidential and letting the gardaí do their work.
“Not everybody agrees with us, we think we did the right thing,” he said. “The first thing we did was we made sure that the students involved were entirely safe and we followed our normal child safeguarding procedures in that, and we followed our health and safety in terms of doing a risk assessment.”
He said that as part of the risk assessment they reached a judgement, with the gardaí, that there was “no credible threat at any stage to a student or indeed a staff member”.
Mr Gaughran explained that gardaí met with the students to put their mind at ease, and subsequently with some of the parents, adding that he spoke to the sixth years – “the cohort of students who were directly involved in the story” – to say there was nothing to worry about. He also said that they had a number of calls during which they tried to allay parents’ fears regarding what was going on, but they didn’t have a lot of information.
“At no stage did we believe or understand that there was a credible threat to anybody in the school,” he stressed. “If there was, we absolutely would have put the students’ and indeed the staff’s safety paramount and we would have obviously acted on that.”
In response to a query from the Kildare Nationalist, An Garda Síochána explained that patrols were carried out but nothing suspicious was detected.