The sun shone on Scoil Bhride NS's brand new building at noon on Friday February 9, for its official opening.
The 32 classroom school, the biggest in Laois, opened to its 767 boys and girls last September, and on Friday each and every one gathered with staff and parents outside to witness Portlaoise parish priest Monsignor John Byrne cut the ribbon.
Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Denis Nulty officially blessed the school on Harpurs Lane, and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan promised that new buildings for St Francis School and Kolbe Special School were next on the horizon.
Principal Murial Wall Coughlin congratulated the Parish Priest Monsignor John Byrne for investing and building so many new schools for all the children in Portlaoise Parish, including the Holy Family parish schools.
“That is some accomplishment,” she said.
She also thanked the previous principal Ted Laffey for initiating the effort to get a new school building 12 years ago, “a long long process”.
She also had a special thanks for Frank White, treasurer of the Board of Management for the past 15 years, who was at the opening.
“I am delighted to welcome today the very first principal of Scoil Bhride, Mrs McNamara. Thanks to all of our teachers our SNAs, our secretary, our caretakers, who have been so patient and worked so hard in keeping the show on the road during the whole build period.
“Bricks and mortar do not necessarily make a good school, it’s the spirit and ethos alive within us that is of real importance. We hope that Scoil Bhride will be a school of creativity, opportunity, fairness, fun and laughter, because a happy child is a learning child," she said.
Minister Flanagan gave the children full marks for wearing hats on the cold day, adding that his needing one more than most would mean his speech would be brief.
“This is part of an overall project right across the country for the replacement of new schools, here in Laois over past six years, we have succeeded in spending our taxpayers money, a total of €65.5 million. That’s 4,660 new school places for you the young people of county Laois. Our next project is to complete the pieces of the jigsaw here in Portlaoise, with St Francis School and the replacement of the Kolbe Special School.
"This is a model school that offers so much to its pupils under the staff and leadership of Mrs Wall Coughlin. Congratulations and good wishes to everybody who was part of this project. I wish everyone well in their studies, in particular 6th class, I want to wish you and your brothers and sisters and your parents every success," Minister Flanagan said.
Bishop Nulty praised Portlaoise Parish for investing "more than any other parish in Ireland" in its schools. He noted the multicultural make-up of the town's catholic schools.
"Most inclusive and welcoming of children of all faiths and none. I think of all the nationalities involved in the celebrations in St Peters and Pauls church marking the commencement of Catholic Schools week, huge numbers of nationalities showed how inclusive our local school networks are," he said.
He thanked the Department of Education, the design team, principal Ms Wall Coughlin and staff, Msgr Byrne and Board of Management, and the local community for its determination to see the project complete. The Kildare & Leighlin diocese has 170 primary schools, a school population of 37,956 pupils.
"That's a lot of lunches, a lot of homework, don't you love homework, Murial none tonight and none Monday evening," he declared, to cheers.
"I pray that the flame of St Brigid will always be flickering in this school, and may the pupils be blessed on this day as we officially launch another chapter in Portlaoise Parish and its education," Bishop Nulty said.
The children then sang 'Song for Brigid, accompanied by the schools ukelele choir. Afterwards guests enjoyed tasty refreshments by the school's DEIS caterers, and toured the bright warm classrooms.