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Stuart McLaughlin and Róisín Fitzgerald of St Patrick's Comprehensive School giving their presentation. Photograph by Sean Curtin Photo.

St Pat’s students highlight importance of ports

ST Patrick’s Comprehensive, Shannon has won the inaugural Shannon Foynes Port Company (SFPC) Transition Year Schools competition.

Education Minister, Jan O’Sullivan presented the winners with a €2,000 cheque for their school, while there were also medals and an iPad for each team member.

The purpose of the competition was to deepen the understanding of port activity on the Shannon Estuary and its contribution to the economy. It was titled The Importance of Ports in the Mid-West and was open to students in Clare, Limerick and Kerry.

The Comprehensive students devised a booklet for primary schools, which gives younger students a greater understanding of the estuary and port company’s activities through games, quizzes and other learning tools.

Team member Sinead Quinn said, “We really had no idea how important SFPC is. Many of us live just five miles from Shannon Airport and we never even knew there was a fuel jetty there. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. When we started this project, we really didn’t know anything about SFPC or the estuary but now we know just how much of a role it plays in our lives on a day-to-day basis that we simply never understood.”

School principal, Morgan Heaphy said, “This is a fantastic achievement for the students and all the hard work that they put in throughout the competition. It certainly gave them a greater understanding of the amazing resource that the Shannon Estuary is and how SFPC plays a key role in making it work for all our benefit.”

Speaking at the event, Minister Jan O’Sullivan said, “I think everyone in the room today, outside of those from the Port Company itself, of course, learned a lot more about the port and the estuary than they probably knew before. The competition shed a light on the incredibly dynamic role that the port company and this amazing estuary plays in everyone’s life in this region and further afield.

“To see the co-operation between Shannon Foynes Port Company and the schools in the region was fantastic. We often talk about a thing called ‘engaged learning’ and we see engaged learning in action here today. This type of competition really helps expand our knowledge of things we have in our own neighbourhood, things we can take for granted on our own doorstep. The students really gave us a sense of the complexity of the estuary, its huge economic potential.”

SFPC CEO, Pat Keating said they are very keen to increase the level of knowledge of the port.

“It has become obvious to us that the greater public and many of our stakeholders, such as national and regional policy makers, do not understand the full potential of the port. So we decided it was necessary to change this. We have an excellent story to tell and we need to tell it.

“There are many ways to do this and one was this school competition. It is very important that business contributes to the local community and it does so be creating employment and other ancillary benefits. However, it needs to do more. Simply put, the more awareness of the importance of a piece of infrastructure, such as the port, the more support it will get from the public and policy makers.”

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