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Campaign for third school at a standstill until restrictions lifted

Pandemic likely to have impact on future of the campaign

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Elaine Clarke.

Elaine Clarke.

Senator Michael D'Arcy.

Senator Michael D'Arcy.

Senator Malcolm Byrne.

Senator Malcolm Byrne.

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Elaine Clarke.

The drive within the campaign for a third secondary school for Gorey is not lost, although the Covid-19 pandemic has put a halt on some plans going forward.

Before the lockdown, the campaign team had planned to host an official launch, along with a website developed by Gorey's Devhaus, and present the petition with hundreds of signatures to a newly formed government after the February general election.

Although the team has been communicating using technology, Elaine Clarke from the campaign said that they simply can't put people at risk during this time.

'The committee members have been doing Zoom calls, but the mass support is the harder one to get together at the moment. You can't meet up with people so it's very difficult to drum up support and it makes it very awkward for us to try and organise ourselves.

'But we are going to be ready to go as soon as restrictions are lifted. We want to have a launch night with the website to get the publicity and the support back up as soon as we can. The last time we had a lot of support from across the board, particularly the parents' associations in primary schools. We are ready to make it very public that the majority of the town is behind this, particularly the parents,' she said.

Elaine said that there are positives such as having a direct line to parents now and a huge response from the petition but that she is as confident as before the pandemic.

'We initially said we'd wait until the new government is in, but with the Covid crisis that has kind of put a delay to all of that so it is making it very difficult. Time frame wise hopefully if things start lifting around August we should be able to get things moving fast but there's nothing else we can do at the moment until we can get people together.

'The financial cost of the pandemic is going to have a major impact. We're fighting for our school but there's a lot of other places around the country that are fighting for the same funding. From our point of view we are hoping that the need will be recognised as more people move in to Gorey, we have the population now ready to go into it. Hopefully that makes our case further up the criteria list, as there's pressure coming from all parties and all sides as everyone is in agreement that it's needed. After groups of parents from every school stood at gates and got signatures, there's a lot more people with knowledge of us now as people recognise that this is a major problem'.

Elected senators Michael D'Arcy and Malcolm Byrne have given their backing to the campaign.

Senator Byrne said his message to everyone in north Wexford is to keep fighting for this.

'If and when we get a new government, and whoever the new Minister for Education is going to be, the day that position is appointed I will be writing a letter seeking a meeting to discuss this issue. We have a sticking plaster solution for 2020 and I think we'll end up with another one for 2021 but we can't continue to go on this way. If we look at how quickly north Wexford is going to continue to grow in the next decade, we've got to be prepared for it.

'The Department cannot dispute the statistics and the figures. It's just up to a Minister to sanction the building of a new school. I've been campaigning on schools issues in Gorey for 20 years and I've been pushing on this, so it's not going to be any different now'.

Senators D'Arcy and Byrne both agree that the biggest challenge going forward will be a financial one.

'We're facing a hell of an economic crisis coming up so we don't know what the cost of the Covid crisis is yet but it's tens of billions, probably between 60 and 80 billion so we have to see how we fund that. I think the pandemic will have an impact on everything, not just this campaign,' said Senator D'Arcy.

'My view is that the land is there, sited and purchased at St Waleran's and we just need permission from the council. We know that the student population is climbing and we'll have to see will it continue to climb but potentially the national debt is increasing by 50% due to this crisis, that's going to order a lot of decisions but I'm sure the case will be considered. Like everything it will depend upon the requirement and the numbers that come forward, it's an issue that is significant and should come up soon'.

'It's going to be a big challenge to get the economy and everything else back up and running again,' said Senator Byrne.

'We are in a position for major capital and infrastructure projects, we're going to need to borrow to build schools and housing. We need a capital stimulus into the economy to get building and start creating jobs in the economy, it's going to be essential to do it. There are going to be people out there who will say that we are going to be able to do everything but the reality is that we are going to be facing in to a major economic challenge'.

Gorey Guardian