O’Dowd says no to meeting with parents

EDUCATION minister John O’Dowd has refused a meeting to discuss his rejection of an additional classroom at Donacloney Primary School.

Wednesday, 8th May 2013, 9:00 am

Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson and Councillor Colin McCusker reacted angrily to the Minister’s rejection of a meeting with them and members of the school’s Board of Governors.

Mrs Dobson said: “By refusing our reasonable request for a meeting John O’Dowd is showing monumental arrogance and indifference towards the young families of Donaghcloney and the future of their primary school. I am incensed that the Minister can make such a far-reaching decision without any accountability or even discussion about it.

“I have written separately, on a number of occasions, to the Minister on behalf of parents who have approached my office. They are rightly angered at his decision to go against the recommendation of the SELB and turn down the application.

“This is yet another example where, like Orchard County Primary School, the SELB was supportive of a school expanding, yet the Minister arrogantly turns it down.

“This level of arrogance from a Minister is unacceptable. As a member of the Education Committee I have previously raised this issue and will continue to do so until the Minister finally agrees to listen to the people of Donaghcloney.”

Mrs Dobson’s Ulster Unionist Colleague Craigavon Councillor Colin McCusker said: “I am absolutely disgusted with the response from the Education Minister. The tone of his letter is very telling. As a local Councillor it is my responsibility to articulate the concerns of my constituents and to make representation to Government Ministers when they make decisions which have a detrimental impact on local communities.

“To be dismissed out of hand, and be told ‘My decision is therefore final’, tells me the Minister is not prepared to listen to any other point of view other than his own.

The Minister is refusing to listen to the concerns of the local people in Donacloney, he said, “It is obvious from this letter that Sinn Fein want to destroy small rural communities, such as Donacloney, and this subtle downgrading of local primary schools is the start of such destruction.

“Parental choice must be maintained, and the increasing demand for enrollment at Donacloney illustrates how popular this school has become.”

The Leader contacted the Department for a response but at the time of going to press none had been received.