Education Minister Peter Weir has been urged to come to Mullaghbrack and justify and explain his decision to close St James’ Primary School.
On Friday, the Minister approved the closure of the rural school from the end of August.
Essentially, that means its days of opening are now down into single figures.
It is a decision that has cause real anger in the community and local SDLP representatives have said it could be disastrous for the tiny Catholic population.
Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty accused the Minister of acting in haste.
He said: “Peter Weir hardly had his feet under the ministerial desk and he has signed a closure order for a small rural Catholic school just outside Markethill.
“And, as a result, parents have only 10 days left of this academic year to arrange a new school for their children this coming September.
“This decision has been taken in haste and has left a local community stunned and angry.
“My predecessors, Dominic Bradley and Seamus Mallon, along with local councillor Sharon Haughey and I, have been working with parents and school staff alike to try and secure a future for the school.
“At present there are 22 enrolled, with the prospect of more children joining the school, and yet the school community feel like the rug has just been pulled from under them.
“Over the last number of years meetings have been held with CCMS, the Catholic Church and with Mr Weir’s predecessor John O’Dowd, as the community pressed for the school to be saved.
“This school serves a small Catholic community in this area and the Minister’s decision puts the very future viability of the Catholic community in this area in jeopardy.
“Peter Weir, just like his predecessor John O’Dowd, has failed to grasp the importance of the retention of this school in this community. They have let financial considerations take precedence over the needs of a community.”
Mr McNulty said he met with parents, teachers and the chair of the Board of Governors after the news was relayed on Friday.
“To say this community is distraught is an understatement and it is a decision they will not accept,” he added.
” I am calling on the Minister and his officials to come to Mullaghbrack, meet with parents and the governors of the school. Let Peter Weir come here, justify his actions and listen to the anger of the local community.
“If this is the new style of government that the DUP and Sinn Fein are trying to sell as progress, I am astonished. This decision is wrong; it smacks of political expediency and is a dreadful indictment of Peter Weir’s first few days in office.”
SDLP Councillor Sharon Haughey-Grimley said the parents of Mullaghbrack had been fighting the campaign to save the school for many years now.
And she added: “It’s a complete disgrace that a DUP Minister, who is only in the job a matter of weeks, has decided to push ahead to close this excellent school which is serving a minority Catholic community.
“I am utterly disgusted that children are being treated in this way. These children should be on cloud nine looking forward to their holidays and now they are being told their school won’t be there in September.
“Children’s welfare needs to be a top priority. I will continue to support the local community until we get this decision overturned.”
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