Protest at plans to close Waterside school

Parents have held a protest outside the Waterside’s only Catholic post-primary school which is facing closure.

A large number of parents and public representatives gathered outside Immaculate Conception College (ICC) as part of the growing campaign to keep the school open.

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)

Earlier this year, it emerged that the College - the only Catholic post-primary school in Derry’s Waterside - will close its doors completely by 2015 if recommendations by the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) are put in place.

However, parents such as Paddy Conaghan, said at yesterday’s protest that the move would be “wrong”. “This is the only Catholic education high school in the Waterside. If we close the school down, what are we telling the future children of the town? That Catholics can only be educated in the city side and Protestants can only be educated in the Waterside?”

Parent Agnes Webb, a past pupil of the school, said the “community is in anger” over the 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 John O’Dowd 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.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Lynn Fleming, who lives in the area, said the closure of the school will be a “great loss” to the community. However, she said the moves to keep the school open were “coming too late to save Immaculate Conception College”. “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.

Immaculate Conception College (ICC) parents have formed an action group and set up a Facebook page in a bid to persuade the authorities to keep the school open.

The Education Minister will have the final say on whether or not the school will close its doors but the CCMS has already proposed that the best option would be a “phased closure” of the Trench Road site beginning in September 2014 and completed by the following September.