Three-pupil school urges families to consider move to 'idyllic' island


A SCHOOL with just three pupils,which is believed to be the smallest and most remote national school in the country, is appealing to families in Dublin and elsewhere to consider moving to Inishturk island off the Co Mayo coast.

It is part of what St Columba’s NS calls its SOS campaign, which stands for Save Our School.

Despite the continued stormy conditions and high seas the three pupils and their teacher Mary Monaghan were yesterday all happily working away in their teach eolais, which teeters high on a winding boreen, overlooking the wild Atlantic and the distant Twelve Pins and Killary harbour.

Speaking from the windswept island, development manager Mary Catherine Heanue, who is spearheading the SOS campaign, delivered her sales pitch to would-be islanders and pupils, saying the standard of education and quality of life on the island was exceptional.

She confirmed there had been a number of inquiries in recent months from families interested in relocating to the island.

“There was a family from Dublin whose children were in big schools who rang recently and a woman from Sligo inquired about the facilities on the island.

“The education is second to none here at St Columba’s. We have a fantastic teacher and with such a small number they get great one-to-one tuition,” Ms Heanue said.

“Anyone willing to move here would be given great support by the community. And there is a brilliant broadband service which would be great for starting a small business.” She also confirmed that there are houses available for long-term rent.

Her daughter Bríd has one son attending St Columba’s and Bríd’s eldest son, Christopher, has just started at Rice College in Westport.

“I am awful sad that Christopher had to leave the island. Children have an idyllic life here and are so safe. He was such a big part of my life but now he has made loads of new friends and joined the football team at Rice College,” Bríd said.

She said: “I would love to see new families moving here and an influx of kids. To see three small children in the school, it is sad. I know they have each other and get on really well and they never complain but it would be lovely, from a social perspective, if there were more.”

Responding to the campaign, Mayo Fine Gael TD and Minister of State for Transport Michael Ring said: “I will do anything that can be done to help save this fabulous island and improve school numbers. I visited the island just last year and, as always, was met by a wonderful community. They are always prepared to come half-way in any initiative and do not take support for granted.”

He said he would help open doors to any of the other Government departments that may be able to help this dwindling community survive.

During the summer Minister for the Gaeltacht Dinny McGinley said at the Cómdháil Oileáin na hÉireann (Federation of Irish Islands) agm that the Republic’s depopulated islands were not abandoned by their communities, rather they were abandoned by the people and bodies charged with looking after them.

He confirmed that Government, despite depleted funds, would continue to support the 2,944 islanders who live on islands around the coastline.

Paul Keyes of the Western Development Commission’s campaign said: “We would be delighted to engage with the community of Inishturk and help raise its profile with those families considering relocating to the region. After all our website had 40,000 hits in August alone.”

The campaign was established in 2004 by the Western Development Commission as a guide to living, working and doing business in the western region.