LUMEN HEAD SPEAKS OUT

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The principal of Lumen Christi College has hit out at the way controversial appointments to the school’s Board of Governors have been dealt with, describing the Education Department’s handling of the situation as 
‘significantly flawed.’

Patrick O’Doherty was speaking for the first time since it emerged that former IRA prisoner Paul Kavanagh and veteran Sinn Fein member Mary Nelis are set to become members of the high ranking grammar school’s nine person board.

Both Mrs Nelis and Mr. Kavanagh are opposed to academic selection, a stance which is seen as being at odds with the core principles of the Bishop Street based grammar school.

Speaking to the ‘Sunday Journal’, Mr. O’Doherty has also revealed that recommendations for the board put forward by the school were ignored in favour of the Department’s choices.

“None of the members we (the school) recommended were appointed,” he said.

Mr. O’Doherty added: “The only consultation from the Department is the name and skills set of the person being appointed - no other information was provided. Our view is that given what we are now aware of, that consultation process is significantly flawed.”

Mr. O’Doherty said he had contacted the Department to register his disappointment at the way the situation has been dealt with but that he was “still awaiting a response.”

Earlier in the week angry parents spoke publicly and said they were “abhorred” at the pending appointment of Mr. Kavanagh who was released from prison in 1999 after being sentenced to five life terms for his part in the bombing of Chelsea Barracks.

The addition of Mary Nelis to the school’s board is also expected to cause huge upset. Ms. Nelis had previously accused grammar schools of “feeding a culture of fear and insecurity” when it came to academic selection and is vehemently opposed to the the process of children either being accepted or turned down by a school purely on the basis of academic ability.

Lumen Christi previously hit the headlines for being one of the first schools to defy then Education Minister Caitriona Ruane by continuing to use academic selection.

However the school continues to boast some of the best academic records in the North. Last year, 100 per cent of pupils achieved five GCSEs at Grade C and above.

Fears have been expressed that a change in the make-up of the governors could force a review of the college’s entrance criteria.

The Department of Education which is headed by Sinn Fein Minister, John O’Dowd, said the appointments being speculated on have not yet been confirmed.