Irish language school to move to former state primary site on Ormeau Road

Scoil an Droichid public consultation. Picture by Hugh Russell

AN IRISH language `bunscoil' is planning a move across Ormeau bridge to the site of a former state school.

Scoil an Droichid yesterday published plans for a proposed new build at the former Ulidia Primary School on the upper Ormeau Road in south Belfast.

As part of the move, the Irish-medium school will join the state controlled sector, which mostly funds non-Catholic education.

Ulidia PS has been closed for decades and is now used as a resource centre. It is expected to be knocked down and a new school erected in its place. It is hoped it will move into new premises in two years.

Parents, pupils, politicians and the public were yesterday invited to view the plans.

Scoil an Droichid opened in 1997 to provide children in south and east Belfast the opportunity to be educated through the medium of Irish.

It is the only Irish-medium school on that side of the city. Its numbers are now 176 and growing annually.

It currently operates from modular buildings in the lower Ormeau area and many of these are in a poor state.

The Education Authority (EA) said the Ulidia move would provide the school with "modern, fit for purpose accommodation".

A business case has been approved by the Department for Education. It will still require approval of a `development proposal' which is due to be published by the EA soon.

Ulidia served the Ballynafeigh area of Ormeau Road. While this is a mixed area, it has experienced controversies in recent years when union and Northern Ireland flags were flown from lampposts. The name Ulidia itself is the Latin for Uladh, the Irish word for Ulster.

There are currently entrances to the site at Ulidia, one from Somerset Street, which was the site of Ormeau Road's last Eleventh Night bonfire, and one on Ormeau Road itself, facing Ballynafeigh Orange Hall.

It is thought, however, that after the school is rebuilt, the main entrance would be off South Parade.

Scoil an Droichid principal Fionnguala McCotter said moving to Ulidia was the preferred option.

"We were approved for a building in June 2014 and have been looking for sites. We need out of where we are, it is just not fit for purpose," she said.

"Our demographics are changing and families are coming to us from further afield now."

She added she had no concerns about the location, which is less than one mile from the existing site.

"If we had our choice of site, we couldn't ask for better," she said.

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