HUNDREDS of people took to the streets of Fivemiletown on Saturday in a massive show of support for the retention of St Mary’s Primary School.
Around 500 people joined the protest march, significantly more than organisers had projected, with huge crowds gathering to show their objection to the proposal to close the rural school, which is being threatened with closure by the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS).
Chair of the Board of Governors, Fergal Foy, said, “It was an incredible showing of support for our school. Parents, staff, and, most importantly, the children, were absolutely delighted to see such massive crowds turn out to show their support for St Mary’s. The atmosphere was outstanding, with local business owners and customers standing out to applaud as we passed by.
“The fact that we were joined by our local MP, Michelle Gildernew, MLAs including Colm Gildernew and Aine Murphy, councillors from both Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Omagh councils, including Donal O’Cofaigh, Sean McGuigan, Garbhan McPhillips and Sheamus Greene, and hundreds of people from across Fivemiletown and beyond, was a strong signal of the level of support we have across the community.
“And, while this was a significant morale boost for those of us who have been fighting this campaign for so long, it was much more significant than that.
“It was a strong, loud and clear message to CCMS and the Department of Education that schools like ours are a vibrant and vital part of our rural community.
“We won’t lie down and accept the fact that the ‘Sustainable Schools Policy’ has not been properly applied in our case, and we will do everything within our power to tell people that this proposal is fundamentally misjudged, misguided and, if there is any justice, will ultimately be defeated.”
He added, “This should serve as a wake up call to those who have been ignoring us for so long, and hiding behind paperwork and processes: Our children deserve better than this, and we won’t rest unless this threat is withdrawn.”