Charleville parents back principal over threat to close school

Prioritisation of upgrades to existing schools needed, Fianna Fáil leader says

Parents of pupils attending a dilapidated primary school in Co Cork have backed the principal's threat not to reopen after Easter without a firm commitment on a long-awaited new building.

Parents waiting to collect their children outside Charleville CBS primary school on Friday were supportive of the strategy adopted by Michael O'Sullivan to get the Department of Education to deliver on a long-standing commitment for a new building and upgrade of the existing school.

Fiona Knightson, whose sons Philip (11) and James (9) are both pupils at the school, said parents are extremely frustrated with the situation given a new building was promised in 2015 and due to be open by now.

“I think if the school is unsafe, I really don’t want to be sending my children somewhere unsafe,” she said. “My two boys have been in the prefabs this year and they’ve already been out more this year than in previous years with health issues.


“In other years, they would have had great attendances but this year since they both moved into the prefabs, they’ve been missing a lot with bugs. Nobody wants to see kids off school and it would be inconvenient but I support Mr O’Sullivan. He’s right to say he will close the school if nothing is done.”

Leaking roofs

Her sentiments supporting Mr O’Sullivan were echoed by Heather Tan, whose son Tristen is a pupil. “He’s a brilliant principal and it’s just crazy that funding was approved in 2015 and nothing has happened since given there are leaking roofs, no hot water – something needs to be done.”

Tim O’Sullivan, who was waiting to collect his grandson Dylan, said he was in no doubt that Charleville was suffering because it is a country town. “When I heard about this, I thought – if this was Dublin 4, it wouldn’t happen, it would have been resolved years ago, it would never have even reached this point.”

James Byrne was equally forthright as he waited to collect his son, Darragh. “I’ve a small guy going to school here and he’s constantly complaining that the classrooms are cold and there is no hot water in the toilets there. I went to that school in the 1970s and it hasn’t changed at all since then.”

Among those lending support was Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who dropped into the school when canvassing in the town with local councillor Ian Doyle. Mr Martin said there needed to be a change of approach so that existing schools in need of upgrades were also prioritised alongside providing new schools.

“The conditions are unacceptable and I think there’s a tendency to ignore existing schools and meanwhile there are new schools being built all over the place,” said Mr Martin, a Cork South-Central TD. “There needs to be rebalancing of resources because there is a sense long-standing schools in the voluntary sector are being left behind.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times