Tom Elliott, Ulster Unionist MP for Fermanagh & South Tyrone, has expressed concern that John O`Dowd has announced the establishment of an Irish language school with only 40 pupils on the former Lisnaskea High School site, only two years after closing the previous school despite it having approximately 140 pupils.
Mr Elliott said:
“I am concerned that the Sinn Fein Education Minister has once again gone on a solo run and announced the opening of an Irish language school with very limited numbers of pupils. He did the same this time last year when he gave the go ahead for an Irish language school in Dungiven with an intake of 14 pupils.
“This time he has given the go ahead for an Irish language school in Lisnaskea without any apparent consultation with the local community. Lisnaskea High School was closed by John O`Dowd in 2013. His justification at the time was diminishing numbers, yet when the consultation was ongoing there were proposals for a shared education project and the school had well over three times the number of pupils that this new school will have.
“Even Maintained schools in the area are under huge pressure from the Minister with proposals to close a number of these schools, including St Eugene’s, Rosslea and many more. All these schools have significant numbers compared to the 40 that this new proposal will cater for.
“It looks like some pupils are more equal than others and that Sinn Fein ideology trumps the needs of all our young people. If he has consulted, I would like to know with whom? The different approaches adopted by the Minister could not be more stark. On the basis of sustainability and value for money, how can John O`Dowd stand over these decisions?”
Ulster Unionist Councillor, Victor Warrington, added:
“I fail to see the need for this school to be relocated to the Lisnaskea High School site. The numbers at present are small and are not set to dramatically increase any time soon.
“The amount of money it will take to make the site suitable for Primary school aged pupils will be disproportionate given the number of pupils at the school and I feel these resources could be better utilised.
“The Department of Education has been heavy handed in its desire to open an Irish medium school in Lisnaskea. I for one am disappointed, to say the least, that there has been no consultation. This is clear evidence of the Sinn Fein Minister snubbing a large section of the Erne East community.”