National broadcasting icon Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, fresh from his climb up Ireland’s highest mountain Carrauntoohill, was in Oughterard on Saturday to officiate at the new national school’s opening.
A former teacher, 82-years-old O Muircheartaigh, who the previous day had led a group of 32 All-Ireland winners up Carrauntoohil for the Alan Kerins Projects, said he was hugely impressed by the facilities, modern design, spacious classrooms, courtyard and the general purpose room of Scoil Chuimín agus Caitríona, which has been shortlisted for an architectural award.
O Muircheartaigh said it was significant the school facility was part of the Oughterard village, with the school hall also available for community activies, while noting the rainwater was diverted into the toilets, suggesting “ this might be a cure for the forthcoming water charges”.
“Education is very important for children,” he said, “ and generally children develop an interest in education if their parents were interested in it.”
Ó Muircheartaigh said the most important people at the event, which included Bishop Martin Drennan who blessed the school, were the pupils, and they took an active part during the hour-long event with the school band playing the “Kerry Polka” in honour of the day’s special guest, singing “A Mhuire Mathair” and finishing off with “This Little Light of Mine”.
Also among the guests were Fr Alan Burke, the Rev Gary Hastings, and Niall Malone, board of management chairperson, and MC, Connacht Tribune editor Dave O’Connell, a native of Oughterard.
Mr Malone said it was an historic occasion for the village, coming some 25 years since initial meetings were held to amalgamate the girls and boys’ schools.
In 1851 a school in Tonwee opened to teach male and female students separately in the same building on a site donated by landlord Christopher St George of Tyrone, just a stone’s throw away from the new school. In 1858 the Sisters of Mercy opened a convent in Oughterard and, two years later, opened a girls’ school. The schools amalgamated on a split site in 2008 until the new school was completed last August.
“It’s great that children will be educated in such a fantastic facility and I thank all the teachers involved in the amalgamation of the schools – it was not always easy, but the teachers all worked together and brought the project to fruition.”
School principal, Micheál Ó Domhnaill, thanked staff for their dedication and energy in their work in the school, while the community, parents and parents’ association had raised €65,000 for the project.
“It is the collaboration of teachers, staff, pupils, parents and community that makes a great school. While literacy and numeracy are the cornerstones of primary education, the school aims to provide a holistic education,” he says.
Micheál Ó Domhnaill also praised JJ Rhattigan Builders and the design team led by architect Dermot Mc Cabe from Simon J Kelly who had “ continually worked to provide the best quality building at the lowest cost, completing the project in budget and on time”.