The sale of the old Marist College buildings by the Marist Fathers to developers has put in serious jeopardy the possibility of opening a Dundalk based Irish medium secondary school in 2021.
Local parents had spent months trying to engage with the Marist brothers with regards to matching an offer they had received from property developers but those attempts came to nothing and this week the contracts were signed to signal an end to any chance of the old Marist building being used as a Gaelcholáiste.
Local parents were expectant after Dept. of Education officials confirmed a technical assessment of the old school in early June was satisfactory, coupled with reports that the Dept. had initiated preliminary discussions with the Marists re lease terms, that a new satellite Gaelcholáiste would open in Dundalk in the near future.
However, in early Sept., when the officials were able to advise the proposed school patron, (An Foras Pátrúnachta), that the proposal submitted was conditionally approved, it transpired that the Marist Fathers had received an offer to purchase the buildings from N Ireland based property developers. In spite of several attempts in September to engage with the Administrator of the Marist Fathers, (responsible for property estate matters) with offers to match the terms offered by the property developers, all approaches were rebuffed.
It is understood that contracts have now been signed and the conveyance is in the final stages. This has resulted in the Dept Education officials advising An Foras Pátrúnachta and the parents that they will not confirm their decision on the proposal until a suitable property is available. Parents are continuing to search and identify potentially suitable properties that could be used but are working against the clock as the school registration process for Sept 2021 post-primary intake has now largely completed.
The refusal by the Marists to engage in any manner with parents and patron for a gaelcholáiste means that in spite of the hard work to date, that Dundalk children will continue to travel to Balbriggan each day in order to continue their education as currently Co Louth does not have any Irish medium education secondary school facilities.
The news comes as a big blow to Irish speakers in the County with the language’s very existence in this region at threat due to the lack of a gaelcholáiste in the region.
Co. Louth is home to the tenth most populous pupil county in Ireland but comes last in the number of pupils taught through Irish, with only two gaelscoileanna and no gaelcholáiste / functioning aonad or Irish streams. Planning was granted by An Bord Pleanála in Jan 2017 to the Marist Fathers to demolish the sports hall/science block and construct 25 apartments and associated works. Although the parents committee are continuing to look for suitable sites elsewhere the window for enrolment for next September has almost closed and at best it would seem that there will be no Gaelcholáiste in Louth until 2022.