Thursday 25 December 2014

Tears as heartbroken staff and students hear the news

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

COLD, driving rain and sombre grey skies outside the sprawling leafy campus reflected the devastation inside the Victorian-era halls of All Hallows College.

Students, academics and staff struggled to get to grips with news that the college – in Drumcondra, Dublin – will be closing its doors for good after 172 years.

Some wept and consoled each other with hugs as staff tried to keep a stiff upper lip, despite the news that the college is no longer financially viable and is winding down.

To fourth-year theology and English literature student Emma Schmid-Looney (23) it was like a death in the family.

"I am absolutely heartbroken," she said, breaking down in tears.

"After being here for four years, it's like your home. It's more than a college, it's like a family," she told the Irish Independent.

While the college will remain open to allow the current crop of 450 full-time students to graduate, Ms Schmid-Looney said some staff had been at the college for decades.

To them, it's like losing their entire families, she said.

"There is such a close connection between staff and students," she said. "This is their life. This is their home.

"I was here earlier when the news broke and I saw (one of the longtime staff) and there were tears in his eyes and I gave him a hug and he just completely broke down. Teachers aren't in the headspace to talk about it either. All you can do is give them a hug," she said.

Joseph O'Hara (21), a third-year theology and English literature student and vice president of the college's student union, said rumours had been circulating for weeks about financial troubles and possible closure, but nobody believed it would come to this.

It wasn't until noon yesterday that an email was sent out confirming the worst.

"People are in shock. A lot of us are on a first-name basis with the lecturers and when you see them going around in tears . . .

"We have some staff here in their 80s who have been here for 40 years. Most of the people I know are in tears. Some are angry but most have lost hope," he said. "The rain outside suits the mood inside."

Irish Independent

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