Anger at SF stance on college campaign

People gather to show their support for Immaculate Conception College on Tuesday. (0507PG02)
People gather to show their support for Immaculate Conception College on Tuesday. (0507PG02)

Waterside parents are angered by Sinn Fein’s stance on the campaign to save Immaculate Conception College.

Sinn Fein Councillor Lynn Fleming has said she believes it is “too late” to save the Waterside’s only Catholic post-primary school which is facing closure following a recommendation for “phased closure” by the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS)

Education Minister, Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd, will have the final say on whether or not the school will close following a two-month long consultation period. Angry residents have called on Councillor Fleming and her party colleagues to lobby for the Trench Road school to remain open.

Speaking on behalf of local parents, Vanessa Conaghan, said: “Colr Fleming tells us we’re flogging a dead horse but there are two months of consultation to go through. This is angering people.” She said she could not understand “why Sinn Fein seems quite willing to stand back” on the issue.

Colr Fleming said yesterday people are looking for a “scapegoat”, adding the closure decision was “inherited” by the Sinn Fein Minister.

Colr Fleming said “bad management” and the fact that many local parents in the area had “voted with their feet” by sending their children to other schools had condemned the facility. “I’d love to see Immaculate Conception College staying in the community but unfortunately the numbers do not stack up,” she said. She said the closure of the school will be a “great loss” to the community. “I’m as sad and disappointed as the rest of the community but I believe we now need to look beyond 2015 and at what is going to happen here,” she said.

On Tuesday a large number of parents and public representatives gathered outside Immaculate Conception College as part of the growing campaign to keep the school open. Agnes Webb, a past pupil of the school whose children were also educated there, said the “community is in anger” over the CCMS recommendation. “We really want a Catholic secondary school in the Top of the Hill area,” she said. SDLP Councillor Brenda Stevenson, who sits on the school’s Board of Governors, said she would appeal to Education Minister to “come on board with the school and the parents . . . and do what is right for the children of the Waterside”. “It has major implications for all the young people of the East bank who want to be educated in a Catholic maintained school.” Immaculate Conception College parents have formed an action group and set up a Facebook page in a bid to persuade the authorities to keep the school open.