THE CAMPAIGN to save St Mary’s Primary School in Fivemiletown took another step forward this week, when a date for the legal challenge against its closure was set for the High Court in Belfast.
Since the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the Education Authority (EA) earmarked the school for closure in January this year, a group of parents and prominent figures in the local community have been mounting a campaign to save the school, which is continuing to see its enrolment growing.
This has included a legal challenge to the decision, and last week Mr Justice Humphreys ruled this case should progress to a full hearing in 2024.
The proceedings – which are being taken on behalf of a pupil at the school – are to consider issues related to alleged ‘procedural unfairness’ and ‘illegality’ in how the CCMS handled a request to withdraw the proposal to close the school.
The judge’s decision to proceed with the case has been welcomed by those fighting to save the school.
Spokeswoman for the campaign and chairwoman of the Board of Governors, Mairaid Kelly, said, “We have long argued that CCMS’ failure to properly engage with us throughout this entire process was wrong, and look forward to the judge’s thorough examination to determine whether it was, in fact, illegal.
“While the courts will determine the legality of what has been done, we must all remember that there are other measures of what is ‘right’, and for a body comprised of representatives of the Catholic Church, one of those must surely be morality.”
Ms Kelly said campaigners had also, separately, raised concerns over the conduct of the CCMS, which she said had “yet to be properly examined, in addition to those being considered through this legal case.”
“This proposal itself could cause irreparable damage to the Fivemiletown community as a whole, undoing years of hard work in building partnerships for a shared future.
“It is hard to understand what justification there could be for the hurt and harm that has already been caused to us. We wish the applicant every success in this court action, and in the meantime continue to welcome new families into our growing and thriving school community.”
The campaign to save St Mary’s, which has now been ongoing for almost a year, has attracted huge cross-community support.
There has also been a petition with almost 10,000 signatures calling for the school to remain open.
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