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School 'sad' at Ruane decision


29/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The decision to reject plans for an integrated primary school at a religious interface in west Belfast may have set in motion the reversal of good work being done there to build bridges between communities.

The Suffolk Community Forum has outlined its "deep disappointment" at news of Caitriona Ruane's decision not to grant Suffolk Primary School integrated status.

The co-educational school lies in a small Protestant estate adjoining the mainly nationalist Lenadoon area.

The Education Minister had said that she wasn't convinced it could secure a high enough intake of pupils.

But the local community forum has said her decision has "undermined and weakened" the ability of the area's nationalists and "small, Protestant community" to co-exist.

A spokeswoman told the News Letter: "We believe that in rejecting this proposal a golden, one-off opportunity to show vision and commitment to the government's agenda of a shared and better future for all citizens has been missed."

She said that over the past 15 years, together with the neighbouring Lenadoon Community Forum, the Suf-folk group had worked hard to bring stability to the area.

But she warned that there were concerns that the rejection of the proposal for the school's integrated status had "potentially set in motion the process of reversing most of these efforts".

The spokeswoman continued: "If the proposal was to be judged solely on numbers we [always] knew it would be rejected.

"We believe, however, that there were a wide range of other factors which could have justified giving this proposal a chance of success, including the recent opening of our new 50-place, pre-school day care centre."

She said that the forum was simply asking for "breathing space" to give the members time to "deliver as outlined on the development plan which showed that a new integrated school in the area could be sustainable in five years".

The Department of Education has reiterated the minister's words.

"I am not convinced that the school would be able to achieve sufficient enrolments to ensure a viable and successful transformation," Ms Ruane had said.



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