The sale of the old Marist College buildings by the Marist Fathers to developers has put in serious jeopardy the possibility of opening a Dundalk based Irish medium secondary school in 2021.
Local parents were expectant of the former St Mary’s College school being a new venue for a local Gaelcholáiste after Department of Education officials confirmed a technical assessment of the old school in early June was satisfactory. This was coupled with reports that the Department had initiated preliminary discussions with the Marists regarding lease terms, that a new satellite Gaelcholáiste would open in Dundalk in the near future.
However, in early September when the officials were able to advise the proposed school patron, An Foras Pátrúnachta, that the proposal submitted was conditionally approved, it transpired that the Marist Fathers had received an offer to purchase the buildings from Northern Ireland-based property developers.
Planning was granted by An Bord Pleanála in January 2017 to the Marist Fathers to demolish the sports hall/science block and construct 25 apartments on the site.
In spite of several attempts in September to engage with the Administrator of the Marist Fathers, who is responsible for property estate matters, with offers to match the terms offered by the property developers, all approaches were rebuffed.
It is understood that contracts have now been signed and the conveyance is in the final stages.
This has resulted in the Department of Education officials advising An Foras Pátrúnachta and the parents that they will not confirm their decision on the proposal until a suitable property is available.
Parents are continuing to search and identify potentially suitable properties that could be used, but are working against the clock as the school registration process for September 2021 post-primary intake has now largely completed.
A statement from parents pushing for a Gaelcholáiste in Louth said: “The refusal by the Marists to engage in any manner with parents and patron for a Gaelcholáiste means that in spite of the hard work to date, that Dundalk children will continue to travel t Balbriggan each day in order to continue their education as currently Co Louth does not have any Irish medium education secondary school facilities.”