Islandmagee school merger plan ‘still in place’, says O’Dowd

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Education Minister John O’Dowd has reaffirmed his commitment to amalgamate Kilcoan and Mullaghdubh primary schools in Islandmagee.

Hopes have been high for the creation of a new school building to cater for children in the Islandmagee area, after the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) first put forward the plan 10 years ago.

And Mr O’Dowd confirmed this week that the long-awaited merger of the two rural schools is still on the cards.

The Minister said: “A development proposal for the amalgamation of Kilcoan and Mullaghdubh primary schools was approved in April 2004. I can confirm that this approval is still in place.”

Last November, NEELB published proposals for the discontinuation of Kilcoan and Mullaghdubh schools, to facilitate the establishment of a new controlled primary school catering for 115 pupils on a greenfield site in the Low Road area of Ballystrudder. This would take effect on completion of a new building.

Mr O’Dowd added: “In 2004, the amalgamation was approved in order to provide a single sustainable school to cater for current and future pupils attending these schools. That position remains.

“There is therefore no material difference between the 2004 approved proposal and the recently published development proposals. A further approval is not required.”

Mr O’Dowd added that it would be up to the NEELB to implement the approved proposal.

“While a new building is required, the NEELB should explore all other potential options to bring the schools together as soon as possible,” the Minister concluded.

Mayor of Larne, Councillor Martin Wilson was part of a delegation of elected represented who met Mr O’Dowd earlier this year to put their case to him for the creation of a new school.

Cllr Wilson told the Times: “I welcome this announcement by the Minister; it appears that he has taken on board what myself and other local councillors put to him when we met in February.

“However, nothing is certain just yet. The ball is now firmly in NEELB’s court and we must continue to play the waiting game.”