Parents of pupils at Cork’s North Monastery primary school have vowed to chain themselves to the gates as they insist plans to move the boys into a merger with a nearby convent school will not go ahead.
a large poster on the main railings says applications are being taken
for next September, a planned move by the trustees would see it closed
down and amalgamated across the road with the St Vincent’s Convent
The principal of Scoil Mhuire Fatima, one of three schools at the
203-year-old North Mon education campus on the city’s northside, told an
impromptu meeting the move would happen “over my dead body”, as parents
were urged to fight the proposal by the Edmund Rice Schools Trust
The 100 parents gathered in the school hall at lunch- time heard from
headmaster Carl Ó Briain the first anyone knew was when he and other
local principals were called to a meeting on Monday to hear the plans of
the trustees of the four schools for a major restructuring of primary
education in the area.
“When I came here in March 2012, we asked the ERST to ask the bishop to
allow junior infant boys into the Mon, because that’s what people want.
We started asking for junior infants and end up being told we’re being
evicted,” he said.
Although numbers have dropped by around 80 to 170 at the school since
2007, the idea was that having infant boys — who traditionally attend
junior classes first in St Vincent’s or North Presentation Primary
school — would boost the school’s future. Instead, the plan put forward
by the trustees of those three schools is that a newly named school on
the St Vincent’s site would accommodate existing pupils and those from
North Mon, with the Sisters of Charity as trustees.
It is proposed that this would allow Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers, whose
numbers are growing rapidly, to move into the vacated North Mon site and
from diocesan trusteeship under the ERST. At the same time, North Pres
would, on a phased basis, become a mixed-gender school through to sixth
The plan drew passion and anger from parents, including many with girls
in St Vincent’s who support the case to keep the North Mon school open.
Josephine Cullinane has a boy in fourth class at Scoil Mhuire Fatima and
a daughter in fifth at St Vincent’s, but said she is devastated at the
way they are being treated in the plan.
“They’re going to throw my son out of his school and dump him in on top
of my daughter’s school in St Vincent’s, where they have no room. I
don’t know who the trustees are but I’m a mother and I will fight tooth
and nail for my children,” she said.
Others said there would not be enough toilets for boys, not enough yard
space, and none of the sports facilities pupils enjoy in the North Mon.
Joseph Saleh, who has a son in the school, another he hopes to enrol and
another who is a past pupil, said he would take the same measures as
one parent vowed.
“I also will chain myself to the gates if that is necessary to stop this,” he said.
Local councillors and election candidates offered their support, including Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy and many past pupils.
Cllr Thomas Gould said he is a North Mon primary past pupil and a board
member at Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers, which was refused when it asked to
co-locate in part of the unused North Mon primary school site four years
ago. But having moved to the old St Finbarr’s College, Farranferris,
nearby over a year ago, he said parents and pupils are happy there and
do not want the proposed move.
“I don’t believe this can be forced through if parents and teachers stand together and say no,” he said.
The Irish Examiner put a series of questions to the ERST yesterday about
the proposals, including why school boards were excluded from
discussions, and what plans are in place to accommodate increased
enrolment at St Vincent’s next September. The trust’s chief executive,
Gerry Bennett, said a proposal has been submitted to the boards of
management, parents and staff for them to engage in a consultative
“The result of these consultations will be sent by the board of management to the trustees by March 7, 2014,” he replied.
A public meeting will be held by the Scoil Mhuire Fatima parents’ association in the school hall at 7pm next Monday.