CLARE primary schools that could be threatened with closure over the next year will be prepared to take to the streets in their ﬁght for their survival, The Clare People can reveal this week.
Taking the ultimate sanction of strike action will loom large on the teachers’ agenda, as early as this Easter as delegates from the county look set to attend the annual INTO Congress in Sligo in large numbers.
At that annual gathering, delegates representing the county’s 122 national schools will voice their concerns and anger over the controversial McCarthy Report recommendation calling for all primary schools with numbers of under 50 be closed.
Last week The Clare People revealed that the Department of Education are studying Colm McCarthy’s recommendations.
This week we publish the list of 44 across the county earmarked for closure under the contentious cutbacks – that second largest number of schools in the country under threat.
“We are talking about a preliminary being done by the department, but at local level, this is as if the Titanic was about to sink,” Clare INTO leader Sean McMahon told The Clare People. “People are standing up on their feet and they are seriously demanding that the INTO support them. The INTO will support these schools and are seriously demanding that their politicians support them.
“I organised the meeting in Spanish Point two weeks ago and out of those 44 schools, 37 attended. I organised another meeting in Nenagh and we had an enormous attendance, including schools from east Clare.
“I have been involved in the INTO for a good while and I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen the same level of participational involvement as there has been in relation to this issue.
“Yes it will be a huge issue. There will be a number of motions at Congress this year in Sligo. Of all the is- sues that have ever reached the stage, the issue of small schools will be absolutely dynamic,” added Mr McMahon, the INTO Central Executive Member for Clare.
The Mullagh NS principal pointed out that its not just teachers and their pupils that would be affected by any school closure, but the communities that they serve across the county.
“I have been getting feedback in the last week and I’m not just getting it from teachers. I’m getting if from a whole variety of rural organisations,” he said.
“The objections will be massive from teachers, but it will be just as massive from parents, from local shops and local community groups. Take the GAA for example.
“The GAA is organised on a parish basis and if you go down the road of closing schools, you may not have a school in a parish.
“Every school would see itself as the cement that holds the community together. The schools and the community they serve would certainly be very strong in demanding that their schools continue.
“If this doesn’t get buried you will have the same type of campaigns that you had in relation to Garda stations and post ofﬁces. If you go back west of Kilkee, if these proposals were implemented you’d have an entire peninsula where where there mightn’t be any school.
“Rural schools, large or small, or indeed rural Ireland did not drive the ﬁnancial madness that became the Celtic tiger. This was instead driven by the greed of banks and the self interest of large developers allied to the inaction of central government to regulate.
“We must not now allow our small, often isolated, rural communities to pay the price in terms of the educational opportunity of our children,” added McMahon.