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‘We never gave up hope’: Work to start on new build St Joseph’s High in Crossmaglen on Monday

'This start to our new school build is a beacon of hope and offers encouragement of brighter days ahead'

Work will start on Monday on the new multi-million pound state-of-the-art replacement for St Joseph’s High School in Crossmaglen.

After years in the pipelne, construction is due to get underway and work is expected to take a number of years to complete.

OHMG have been appointed to oversee the construction of what has been described as a “multi-functional school with associated landscaped areas, sports facilities, car parking and bus set-down areas”.

It has been 16 years since St Joseph’s High School first made an application for a new-build.

The school has written to parents of pupils to inform them and keep them up-to-date with the latest development.

The letter, from principal Marie Millar, said that while it had at times been a frustrating journey, they “never gave up hope that the pupils and staff would get the new school they deserve”.

She wrote: “This long awaited announcement couldn’t have arrived at a better time given the current pandemic.

“This start to our new school build is a beacon of hope and offers encouragement of brighter days ahead.

“By the time we move into our new school building this surreal time will have passed and all that is great about St Joseph’s will continue in its brand new, modern form.

“However, despite our long wait, St Joseph’s beating heart has always remained strong, constant and concentrated on providing an outstanding education to the young people of South Armagh, offering academic excellence and inclusivity.

“Our multi-functional building will have all the warmth, care and familiarity, the comforting sameness, the sense of belonging to the family of St Joseph’s.

“The positive impact the new school will have on pupils, staff, parents and the wider community will ensure that St Joseph’s High School remains at the heart of our local community and our up-to-date facilities will be a valuable asset to all stakeholders.

“The new school is a testament to all who have long campaign for this day and St Joseph’s will continue to provide the young people of South Armagh with the best possible start in life in a brand new build.”

It was in June 2014 that former Education Minister John O’Dowd confirmed a huge financial investment of £170 million for 16 schools which included the new build for St Joseph’s High School.

Planning permission was granted in 2018 and now construction will begin on Monday.

Slieve Gullion area Sinn Féin Councillor Aoife Finnegan has welcomed the news and said it was a “great boost to the entire area especially in these challenging times”.

She added: “Reaction on the ground here amongst the local community is one of great happiness and praise for all involved for their resilience and commitment to the project.

“The vision that all had about the future of St Joseph’s is now set to become a reality.

“I also believe that a new school build will help solve the dilemma faced by many parents in south Armagh who understandably want the best standard of education and facilities for their children.”

Her colleague Newry & Armagh MLA Conor Murphy said: “This is great news. It is fantastic to think that the pupils of St Joseph’s will soon have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and I know that this will further enhance the educational experience of those attending this exemplary school.

“It is fantastic for the area and a demonstration of Sinn Féin’s commitment to education. The project has been a key priority for myself, my colleague Mickey Brady MP, former MLA Megan Fearon and recently retired local councillor Terry Hearty, all whom have for many years passionately pursued the project.”

He congratulated all at St Joseph’s and added: “This has been a long, hard but united and ultimately fruitful campaign.”

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