Sunday 20 January 2019

Friends of drowned teens faced 'hugely unfortunate' Junior Cert question on quarry

Jack Kenneally and pal Shay Moloney in a rugby club photo
Jack Kenneally and pal Shay Moloney in a rugby club photo

Gordon Deegan

Friends of the two Ennis teenage drowning victims were faced with a question in the Junior Cert English paper about not being allowed to swim in an old quarry.

In the first paper of this year's Junior Cert, students were asked to select the correct word which sounds the same in the following sentence: "I was not allowed/aloud to swim in the old quarry."

The exam came only days after scores of Junior Cert students turned out for the funeral of 15-year-old St Flannan's College Junior Cert student, Shay Moloney, in Ennis, Co Clare.

Six days before the exams started Shay and Jack Kenneally (15), a student at Ennis Community College, died after getting into difficulty swimming in an old disused quarry at Knockanean outside Ennis.

They were described as "brothers in arms" and it emerged Shay had made a desperate bid to rescue Jack, his friend since primary school, from the deep water.

Despite rescuers' efforts, it is understood they were submerged for up to 30 minutes. They were airlifted to University Hospital Limerick by the Shannon Coast Guard helicopter, where they were pronounced dead.

Shay Moloney and Jack Kenneally in an Ennis Rugby Club photo
Shay Moloney and Jack Kenneally in an Ennis Rugby Club photo

Clare County Councillor Mary Howard said it was "hugely unfortunate" the question, on page 16 of Section B of the English exam paper, appeared so soon after the tragic deaths of the two youngsters.

The Fine Gael representative said: "The parents thought that the Junior Cert was a blessing in disguise and would act as a distraction to the teenagers grieving, so it is hugely unfortunate that some of the friends of the two boys were faced with a question like this in their English exam, especially when they are still grieving."

Independent member of Clare County Council Councillor Anne Norton acknowledged the question appearing in the Junior Cert paper was "a huge coincidence".

She said: "It is a very unusual. It is also tough that the students in Ennis would have this question put to them."

The two boys were swimming with a group of friends in the disused quarry on the day and scores of Ennis teenagers have been going to the lake to swim over the years.

Signs at the entrance of the lands state: 'Danger - Deep Water - No Swimming' and 'Danger silt Pond, Deep Water, Keep Clear'.

Cllr Norton said: "People will get upset about the question but the message does have to be brought home that young people shouldn't swim in quarries or where there is no lifeguard cover."

She acknowledged that the question was drawn up and the printing of the examination paper was done months before the tragedy took place.

At yesterday's meeting of Clare County Council, councillors agreed to a vote of sympathy for the boys' families.

Clare mayor Cllr Tom McNamara (FF) described what happened as "an awful tragedy".

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) was not in a position last night to comment on the appearance of the question in the Junior Cert Higher Level English paper.

Irish Independent

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