EDUCATION Minister John O’Dowd returned to his old primary school in Laurencetown on Thursday - just days before being nominated as the temporary Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.
Mr O’Dowd will stand in as the replacement Deputy First Minister while Martin McGuinness makes his bid to become President of Ireland. The news was confirmed yesterday (Monday) following last week’s visit to St Colman’s Bann Primary School in Laurencetown.
During the visit Mr O’Dowd met with pupils as well as both current and retired members of staff. He also had the opportunity to meet two of his former teachers and an old classmate who is now on the school’s Board of Governors.
He said: “It’s great to be back in St Colman’s Bann Primary School. The school has a proud history of providing quality education for children in Laurencetown and the surrounding areas for many, many years. In fact, the school either as St Colman’s, or, as it was previously known, the Bann Primary School, has had a central role in the local community for over 100 years.
“I personally am very proud of my connection with the school and my visit has brought back many happy memories.”
The Minister, who it is expected would replace McGuinness should the Sinn Fein deputy leader become President of Ireland,praised the musical and sporting opportunities at his former school.
“As well as providing a high level of education at Key Stage One and Two, St Colman’s also places emphasis on the important role of sport and music in a child’s development. The school participates in the GAA strand of my Department’s Primary Sports Programme. This is a great way of encouraging children to embrace physical exercise and I hope the pupils here are enjoying being part of this great programme.
“I know that (the school has) particularly strong links with the Tullylish club, with many pupils being members of the club and playing for the underage teams. That would have been my local club growing up and I hope that I will have the opportunity in the future to see some of you in the famous yellow and blue jerseys.
“Musical talent is also strongly encouraged at St Colman’s Bann Primary School. As well as a school choir and tin whistle group there are also key stage two children learning to play violin, cello and double bass with support from the Southern Education and Library Board music service tutors. I was lucky enough to experience some of that musical talent for myself today through the performance by the school choir and I commend all those involved in that and the various other musical activities.
“Finally, on a personal note I would like to thank St Colman’s Bann Primary School and all those present today who had a role in my education. I hope that the current pupils enjoy their time here as much as I did.”