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WATCH: Bishop Denis Nulty cuts the ribbon to officially open the Holy Family schools in Portlaoise

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan


The biggest primary school campus in Laois, and the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, was officially opened this morning in glorious sunshine.

The Holy Family Junior and Senior Schools in Portlaoise had their ribbon cut by Bishop Denis Nulty, who then got a 'happy birthday' sung to him by all the children.

The schools have 1,385 children between them, and are an amalgamation of three Portlaoise parish schools, St Paul's, the Sacred Heart, and Scoil Mhuire NS.

Bishop Nulty got each class seated in the sunshine to raise their hands in turn, calling it "the Portlaoise Mexican wave".

Principal of the senior school Des Sutton noted the multicultural ethos in the schools.

"Our pupils have 25 nationalities, 28 languages and 20 percent of them were born outside Ireland, we are some family aren't we," he said to cheers.

Portlaoise Parish Priest, Monsignor John Byrne, was praised for driving the project for many years.

He noted that his parish's schools never had a requirement for children to have a baptism cert. 

"Our doors were open to all who applied, we are among the most diverse in the country, but are still unashamedly Catholic in our ethos," he said, to applause from the audience.

Msgr Byrne also wished well to Sammon Construction who built the school and have recently gone into liquidation.

"My sympathies to them, I hope the many fine men and women who worked there will find redeployment," he said.

Minister Charlie Flanagan also spoke at the official opening, and noted that his own daughters Olwen and Sophie had been pupils of the Sacred Heart school, and had sent their good wishes from Sydney and Boston.

"I acknowledge the work of the principals Enda Hickey, Anne Buggy and Des Sutton and staff, and my appreciation on behalf of the government of what has happened here. This was a long time coming and I acknowledge the leadership of Monsignor Byrne," he said.

The school build cost the government €13.5 million. The site was bought jointly by the parish and by the Presentation Sisters for €1.25 million, while the Christian Brothers gave €200,000 towards playing pitches, and Leinster Council of the GAA gave another €15,000.

The children had begun by singing 'Don't Stop Me Now', and after the ceremony there was no stopping Bishop Nulty as he briskly swept through the plaza and both schools to bless them with holy water, while the children sang 'Hallelujah'.