Scoil Íosagáin’slong-awaited new premises is as far away as ever after planning permission for its new state-of-the-art 25-classroom school was allowed to lapse by the Department of Education.
It’s the latest setback for Scoil Íosagáin’s badly needed rebuild which was first announced 11 years ago, but the Department of Education declined to answer questions put to it by this newspaper as to what it means for the project.
At the very least, it will require new planning permission which must go through the normal statutory process with its various checks and balances and avenues of appeal.
At the worst, it could send the project back to the drawing board and caught up in the Department’s tortuously slow building procedure which takes years rather than months to complete.
Fr John Walsh, chair of Scoil Íosagáin’s board of management, said a new planning permission application was being ‘expedited’.
Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said he was shocked at the development and will be seeking urgent clarification from the Department of Education.
“I’m astonished that this has happened,” Deputy Mac Lochlainn said last night. “In response to questions I tabled in the Dáil, the Department of Education told me in the middle of June that everything was on track and that construction was to get under way in the second quarter of this year with a projected build time of 27 months.
“I’m shocked at this development given that I was told a very different story just three months ago, that diggers were ready to go on site.
“This new school has been badly needed for long, long time, and I will be seeking urgent clarification from the Department of Education as to the meaning of this.
“Given the mess it made of securing a site for the three school campus, you would have thought that the Department would have some sense of urgency on its building projects for Buncrana and South Inishowen, but apparently not.”
Scoil Íosagáin is the largest primary school in Donegal with around 800 children on its rolls.
It is currently spread across two main buildings on either side of a cul de sac and a number of prefabs. In addition to its mainstream classes, Scoil Íosagáin houses one of the leading special education units in the country.
Plans for the new school were first announced more than ten years ago, in February 2011, but it took five years for plans to be finalised and a planning application made.
Donegal County Council granted planning permission for the new school, which will comprise of two storey building providing 25 general classrooms, nine special needs classrooms as well as a library, offices, storerooms, staffroom and toilets, in 2016, a grant subsequently upheld by An Bord Pleanála the following year following unsuccessful objections from five parties.