THE OFFICIAL opening ceremony of New Ross town’s two new primary schools took place at the weekend.
Under a glorious blue sky and soaring temperatures a very large crowd of invited guests, teachers, staff, management, pupils, parents and relatives gathered in the playground of the Catherine McAuley Junior School on Friday to witness what was described “as an event to secure the education of future generations of Rossonians”.
Upon arrival guests were greeted by the sound of music as pupils showcased their musical prowess in both the trad and popular music genres.
The school Principal, Elma Sutton, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and paid particular tribute to Minister Paul Kehoe, Dep. Brendan Howlin, and former TD, Sean Connick, for their work in helping to bring about the development of the new complex.
She said it was a very significant day for everyone involved and especially for the children in attendance.
Ms. Sutton invited a number of people to speak including Monsignor Joe McGrath who said the schools represented seats of learning supported by three legs.
He said the first leg was comprised of the physical buildings while the second leg was the amalgamation of the CBS, St. Joseph’s Girls’ and Michael Street Boys’ national schools.
Mons. McGrath said the third leg of support dated back to 1849 when the Christian Brothers arrived in New Ross, followed shortly after by the Sisters of Mercy.
“The English always said that if you educate the Irish they will rule themselves and that happened within 80 years,” he said.
He also said Bishop Denis Brennan had made an inspired move in asking Dr. Henry Goff to lead the Amalgamation Committee.
“He [Dr. Goff] is here today and we thank him for his work on it,” said Mons. McGrath.
He also acknowledged the role of the Edmund Rice Senior School Principal, Brian McMahon, who postponed his retirement until the new facility opened.
Commenting that there were ups-and-downs along the way and a lot of meetings between stakeholders Mons. McGrath said: “Everything is worthwhile when it works out like this.”
Min. Paul Kehoe:
Min. Paul Kehoe described the event as a great day for New Ross.
He said a lot of people worked very hard behind the scenes to make the day a reality and trust was placed in the shared Board of Management of the new schools to provide the best possible outcome for the children of the town.
“Schools only exist for the children who attend them,” said Min. Kehoe.
“There was a €10m overall investment here but it was an investment into the future of this town and our county,” he added.
He wished the current Sixth Class pupils the best of luck in their education as they enter secondary school.
“They have had a great education in New Ross and this is a great day for the town.”
Dep. Brendan Howlin:
Dep. Brendan Howlin commented that anything worth having is worth waiting for but added that there should be a limit to that.
With regard to his involvement in helping to get the project over the line he said: “It has been one of the most torturous routes I have been involved in, the path to this successful day.”
With regard to the amalgamation process Dep. Howlin said bringing together three different educational cultures is difficult and that the management of the new facility is very important for “the future foundation that this centre will bring”.
He commented that while the building itself is very impressive people could have confidence that “the doing” of the work in the school will be carried out by leading professionals.
“This is a brilliant day and at last there is a facility here worthy of the children of this town.”
Bishop Denis Brennan:
THE BISHOP was the final speaker on the day and he acknowledged the fact there were young and old people in attendance.
He commented that a number of public representatives were in attendance and also Fr. Billy Caulfield who was only ordained a priest the previous weekend in Horeswood.
Bishop Brennan said he supported the belief of Mons. McGrath and those involved in developing the idea for the new schools and that was why he chose Dr. Goff to lead the committee.
“Through the years the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy founded and developed the education process we are now celebrating,” he said.
He also said it’s important that history does not avoid where we come from as people and referring to Mons. McGrath’s earlier comments about Ireland coming out of penal law and being hit by the famine and suffering oppression at the hands of the English, the Bishop said: “This is who we are and we cannot write out that part of our history.”
“I am delighted to hear everyone mentioned here today; politicians from different parties working together for people here,” he added.
“They get criticised but we should applaud what they do as well; politics is a tough trade and people’s lives are not their own when they’re in it.”
The Bishop said the day was, in some ways, the beginning of a journey and he wished everyone well as they embarked on it.
He then blessed the complex and having told the children present that dispersing the Holy Water was his “favourite part”of the ceremony he asked them: “Will I bless the big people as well?”
His question was met with a resounding “yes” from the pupils and he complied.
The Bishop was then invited to unveil the official plaque in the junior school and along with two pupils, Aoife Dreelan and Jake Purcell, cut the ribbon to officially open the senior school where everyone was invited to partake in refreshments.
It was the culmination of a very special and historic day in the lives of current school children and future generations in New Ross.