‘School closure will set city back thirty years’

Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey presents a petition in support of Immaculate Conception College, Derry.
Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey presents a petition in support of Immaculate Conception College, Derry.

Parents fighting to keep the only Catholic post primary school in Derry’s Waterside open say its closure will set the “city back some thirty odd years.”

Teresa Dunne of the Save Immaculate Conception College group said that, should plans to close the Top of the Hill school go ahead, the river Foyle will divide the city “like the Berlin Wall.”

“Parents remain angry and frustrated at the plans to close our school,” she told the ‘Journal.’

“We feel let down by the Catholic Church and by the Catholic Council for Maintained Schools (CCMS) - they have offered us no support in our fight to save the only Catholic secondary school in the Waterside.

“Should the plans go ahead we will have a situation where Catholic children are taught on one side of the river, Protestants on the other. It’s a move that will set Derry back thirty odd years,” she said.

The mother of two Immaculate Conception pupils was speaking after SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey delivered a petition - signed by around 7000 people - calling for the school to remain open to Stormont Speaker, William Hay.

She said campaigners were overwhelmed by the level of cross community support.

“All we want is for the school to remain open. We feel we have been discriminated against. Our children will be forced to go to already over subscribed schools if the closure goes ahead.

“There will be a serious knock on effect in the Top of the Hill, one of Derry’s most deprived areas, if the College closes,” she said.

Immaculate Conception College will close its doors completely by 2015 if recommendations by the CCMS are put in place.

The Education Minister John O’Dowd 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, with the closure completed by the following September.