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A view of Gaelscoil Donncha Rua. Photograph by John Kelly

A new home for Donncha Rua

THERE was confirmation last week that work is to begin on a new school building for Gaelscoil Donncha Rua.
When the project was first mooted a number of years ago, it was expected that the cost would be in the region of €3.5 million, but costs have risen considerably since then.
The school opened in 1984, but it has never had a permanent building, relying on prefabs for the last 40 years.
In one capacity or another the current school principal Aisling Ní Áirtnéada has been at the Gaelscoil for 20 years and she is delighted that work is about to begin.
“The department issued us with a letter of intent, which means that the construction team will be onsite in mid-August,” she said.
“We have been working hard to get it going for a number of years. The previous principal Muireann Ní Cearbhaill and myself first went to meet Jan O’Sullivan.
We sat down, had a chat with her and told her we were in prefabs for nearly 40 years.
“She was Minister [for Education] at the time and she got the ball rolling for us. Michael McNamara (Ind) really helped out too, he was a TD at the time.
“When St Patrick’s Comprehensive opened up their extension we invited Richard Bruton, the then Minister, to come and see where we are in the prefabs and how much we spend every year in rent.
“Afterwards a design team was set up and we worked with them. For example the architect would come in, we’d meet them, and they ran the project but they had our help and input. It was delayed by two years, one year over planning. These issues come up but it was initially supposed to be finished in 2023, but here we are in 2024 and it should be an eighteen month build from Autumn.”
She had hoped that work would begin last summer.
“We were all ready to go this time last year, but the Department came back and wanted a decarbonisation report. So we are getting the air to heat, the solar panels and everything a new build should have. We are conscious of our carbon footprint,” she said.
Unfortunately getting a new school build is an incredibly lengthy and trying process in this country.
“It has been a hard slog. There have been a lot of let downs along the way, Covid, a few knock backs with the planning, but it’s just a lengthy process.
“The team told us that in the beginning,” she said.
The new building will have six mainstream classrooms and one for an early intervention preschool and one for the school’s ASD class. The school will have its own hall and there will be a library area.
“The parents have stuck by us for years and really helped us out. It’s really fantastic for the parents and for the students and the staff,” said Aisling.
The current enrolment is at 78, but that may rise when the classes move from prefabs into a far superior school building, she feels.
Up until now the school has had to exist in difficult circumstances but it hasn’t deterred parents who want their children to have Irish from an early age.
“We find that the parents who come to us really have the grá for the Gaeilge,” she said.
“And that’s what it’s all about too, to promote the Irish language. We’re the only Gaelscoil between Ennis and Limerick. We have a lot of parents who come in from Newmarket and Sixmilebridge, even from Quin, and we had a family from Kilkishen for a while because they really wanted the children to have the Gaeilge.”

Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.

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