It was all about interconnections at the official opening of St Fergal’s College extentsion in Rathdowney last Monday April 23.
The new President of the GAA Liam O’Neill, who is married to the principal, performed the opening as one of his first duties.
“The school is now clearly connected. Martin Luther King said all things are connected, and probably the most important thing is community. That’s where we find our strength. Schools like this bind us together,” he said, adding that he was very proud of his wife, Áine O’Neill.
Guests were treated to a meal and entertainment by the wonderfully melodic girls choir, and a foottappingly good trad session by a group of pupils who are all members of Camross Comhaltas, helped by music teacher Niamh Kavanagh.
The CEO of Laois VEC Anne O’Keeffe and Chairperson Cllr Mary Sweeney also praised the strong community spirit of St Fergal’s, while Fr Foley recalled its humble beginnings in 1937, where 27 pupils were taught in a room upstairs in Mrs Holland’s house.
Up to last September St Fergal’s was divided into three separate buildings and five dilapidated prefabs, with a steeply inclined walk in the open air between them. Now there are wide bright corridors joining the school together. Five new classrooms, a meeting room, a principal’s office, a new carpark and a new roof have all been added. A voxpop video was played at the launch, in which pupils and teachers commented on how much warmer, brighter, and spacious St Fergal’s now is.
Anne O’Keeffe was thanked by the principal Ms O’Neill for her tenacity in getting funding for the project, which cost a total of €1.6 million, all of which came from the department. Replacing the five prefabs with classrooms cost half a million alone.
“I am particularly grateful to have Anne O’Keeffe in our corner. When she wants something, eventually she gets it,” she said. She thanked all involved with the build, from neigbours of the school, to teachers, pupils, cleaning staff and the builders who had to work while classes were in progress,
The principal was presented with flowers by prefect James Hennessy.
Next in the sights of the school is a new gym. With guarantees of hard work on this coming from Anne O’Keeffe and Parents Council chair Ann Peters, it seems sure to come to fruition.
Finally at the imposing new front entrance, prayers were said by Fr Foley and Archdeacon Murray, and Liam O’Neill duly did the honours and unveiled a plaque commemorating the transformation of St Fergal’s.