A North Belfast Irish medium primary school that has been campaigning for a new school building for over 15 years is celebrating the annonucement of a multi-million pound government funding package to build new premises.
Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin on Wyndham Drive is one of 14 schools across the North to benefit from the investment announced by Education Minister John O’Dowd on Monday (June 25).
Irish medium secondary school Coláiste Feirste in west Belfast, which educates many pupils from the North of the city, is to receive £11.9m.
The £2.5million for Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin will be used to build a new state of the art development incorporating a nursery and five classrooms beside the former Cricky site which is now a GAA facility on the Cliftonville Road.
Tarlach Mac Giolla Bhríde, chair of the Board of Governors of Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin, said everyone associated with the school is “ecstatic”.
“It’s been so long overdue and we are just so happy that it has finally come,” he said.
“The campaign for new premises has been going on since the school was established in 1994 when the buildings were only supposed to be a temporary measure. But now after all these years we are going to get the building the staff and pupils deserve.
“It is a great school despite the conditions. There is a great community feel about the school and the new building will enhance that. We have very strong links to other Irish medium Sschools in the area and with the development of the pitch at the Cricky this area will be of great mutual benefit to the community.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said it was fantastic news for the whole community.
“The highest praise must go to the parents and staff of Bunscoil Bheann Mhadagáin for their dedication and determined campaigning,” he said.
“Children being educated in such poor conditions was a huge concern and the logic of building a new school on the Cliftonville Road remained the only viable answer to the ongoing problems.
“The development will not only improve the conditions for learning but create local jobs during construction and advance the Irish language sector in North Belfast as a whole.”
Principal of Coláiste Feirste, Micheál Mac Giolla Ghunna says their slice of the funding will be used for new classroom accommodation on land behind the west Belfast college and a sports facility dubbed An Spórtlann to be located in front of the school on the site of the old Beechmount Leisure Centre.
“With improved accommodation and facilities, on a par with other schools, our pupils will have even greater success, both academically and in sport. We are very excited about the opportunities this capital investment will provide for our young people,” he said.