Parade of Crews at Tall Ships Belfast  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Parade of Crews at Tall Ships Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

Great to see a parade in July through Belfast city centre that does not cause divisions, only celebrations, draws the crowds and is a truly international event.

Crew from yacht LE Creidne parade through Belfast  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Crew from yacht LE Creidne parade through Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher

It must also be the first occasion when uniformed members of Óglaigh na hÉireann (meaning the Irish Defence Forces, not a paramilitary organisation), namely crew from the Irish Navy yacht LE Creidne, marched in formation to commands as Gaeilge from their officer (a Lieutenant) in Belfast City Centre, from the Harbour Commissioners Office across the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and into East Belfast.

Crew from yacht LE Creidne parade through Belfast ahead of UK Sea Cadets (and a giant octopus!)  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Crew from yacht LE Creidne parade through Belfast ahead of UK Sea Cadets (and a giant octopus!) Photo: © Michael Fisher

They marched in front of a band formed of Sea Cadets from Britain, who played “It’s a long way to Tipperary” at one stage. As their parade came to an end in the car park outside the SSE (Odyssey) Arena, the only tricolour to be seen (and it was non-contentious) was the one on the former Air Corps Alouette III helicopter.

Former Irish Air Corps Alouette III Helicopter owned by the Ulster Aviation Society   Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Former Irish Air Corps Alouette III Helicopter owned by the Ulster Aviation Society Photo: © Michael Fisher

The aircraft is now in possession of the Ulster Aviation Society and is normally kept at the large hangar at the Maze, where there was once an RAF base. They also brought along a Spitfire and both provided a great attraction for the children, as well as raising funds for the Society. They carried out a similar exercise at the Balmoral Show in May.

Portugese sailors from Santa Maria Manuela in the parade of Crews  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Portugese sailors from Santa Maria Manuela in the parade of Crews Photo: © Michael Fisher


Cisne Blanco from Brazil moored at the SSE Arena drew the crowds on Day 1  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Cisne Blanco from Brazil moored at the SSE Arena drew the crowds on Day 1
Photo: © Michael Fisher

A great spectacle as the Tall Ships 2015 flotilla arrived in Belfast with crowds packing the area around the Titanic Quarter, over the walkway beside the Lagan Weir and across the quays past Clarendon Dock to York Dock and finally Pollock Dock, where the event was centred in 1991. Quite a contrast with the scale of this year’s truly international event.

Tall Ships 2015 Belfast  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Tall Ships 2015 Belfast Photo: © Michael Fisher


Town of Monaghan Co-op CEO Gabriel D'Arcy at Coolshannagh  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Town of Monaghan Co-op CEO Gabriel D’Arcy at Coolshannagh Photo: © Michael Fisher


The proposed merger of Town of Monaghan Co-Op and Ballyrashane Co-Op in North Antrim has been strongly endorsed by shareholders of both Societies. There will now be a three weeks cooling-off period before the plans are put before the members again for formal approval. Both chief executives said afterwards there had been very good turnouts at the two shareholder meetings on Tuesday night in Monaghan and Ballyrashane. They said it was clear there was a resounding acceptance of the strategic fit between the two co-ops and that a merger would enable them to do things together that they could not do alone.

This development is one of the most important chapters in the history of the Co-Op since its foundation as the Town of Monaghan Co-operative and Dairy Society Ltd in 1901. Around 350 people packed into the Four Seasons Hotel in Monaghan on Tuesday. Of these, 263 were shareholders eligible to vote on the resolutions at the Special General Meeting.

At the start, the Chief Executive Officer Gabriel D’Arcy, who was appointed to the post last year, outlined his and the Board’s vision for the Co-op as it trades in an international market and following the abolition of EU milk quotas in April. He spoke about the crucial contribution that a merger with Ballyrashane would make in achieving that vision. Mr D’Arcy also outlined the benefits accruing to all suppliers both in the Republic and in the North as a result of the merger.

The meeting lasted three and a half hours during which there was an open and informative question and answer session with shareholders. When the first resolution, the proposed merger, was put to the meeting, it received overwhelming endorsement by 88% of those eligible to vote. A threshold of 75% was required for approval. At the meeting of Ballyrashane shareholders at the co-op’s premises, there was an even stronger endorsement of 97%.

Further meetings will take place at both locations on July 21st when a minimum of 50% approval will be required before a legal agreement can be drawn up between the two Societies. The merged entity will have a new name, but this has not yet been revealed. It would be a name that resonates with international customers and reflected the wholeness and Irishness of the dairy product. If approved, it would come into operation on September 1st. Based on current figures it would have a combined annual turnover of  €320 million (€200m TMC and €120m Balyrashane). It would become the second biggest dairy processor in the province of Ulster.

The amalgamation would see TMC making up 85% of the new co-op and the other 15% Ballyrashane. The headquarters would be in Monaghan. Members of the Board of both co-ops (16 in TMC and 10 in Ballyrashane) would hold their current positions until elections would be held for a new Board in eighteen months’ time. Hugo Maguire from Clones will be the new Chairman and Roy Irwin (Ballyrashane) the Deputy Chairman.

Gabriel D’Arcy who would be the new CEO and his Ballyrashane counterpart Nigel Kemps who would be Deputy CEO of the proposed new co-op said the discussions had been a very positive process. They had moved through the various stages in line with the expectations and guidelines agreed initially by both parties. Both sides said they were delighted with the degree of co-operation and good faith that had been exhibited since the possibility of a merger was announced a few months ago. Mr D’Arcy and Mr Kemps said they were convinced that a merged co-op had huge global potential and would be good for the supply base, the staff and the dairy industry in general. Both co-ops have discovered that they have a similar ethos and culture and common values and this has enabled them to build trust during the discussions.

At the meeting of shareholders, the TMC suppliers were told that one of the main benefits of a merger would be the ability of the new co-op to pay a stronger milk price than would otherwise be the case. It would help to secure the existing quality milk pool and grow it to between 600-700 million litres annually (currently around 430 million litres). Ballyrashane sources its milk from 108 farms within a fifteen-mile radius of its plant, which is close to the Giant’s Causeway. Town of Monaghan’s range of great tasting products include whole milk and skim milk powders, which are primarily for the export market as well as fresh milk, buttermilk, butter, yogurts and desserts all of which are marketed in Ireland under the “Champion” brand.

Ballyrashane Co-Op is the oldest dairy in Northern Ireland and produces milk, butter and a specialist cheese for the Greek market. It has blue-chip customers, such as Marks & Spencer. Its butter plant is described as one of the most modern in the country. Town of Monaghan’s range of great tasting products include whole milk and skim milk powders, which are primarily for the export market as well as fresh milk, buttermilk, butter, yogurts and desserts all of which are marketed in Ireland under the “Champion” brand.

Both co-ops employ around 150 people. Both have reiterated their view that a new merged entity would create a powerful new market force. They say their complementary geography and production facilities, technologies, and customer listings, together with the combined balance sheet strength offer the unique opportunity to create a true leader in the competitive Ulster dairy food sector, focused on innovation and competitiveness. An agreement would allow the new co-op to invest confidently up to €35 million in the TMC site at Artigarvan near Strabane in County Tyrone, introducing new processing technology to make value-added dairy ingredients such as butterfats and lactose free products for the international market.

Gabriel D’Arcy told the ‘Northern Standard’ he was very pleased and humbled by the support the merger proposal had received. The Chief Executive remained hopeful the plan would be progressed in conjunction with Ballyrashane in the months ahead. He believed the farmers who attended the Monaghan shareholder meeting were very astute and realised that times were changing. They wanted to take control of their destiny and to put their Society at the forefront of the agricultural industry. It was a big, brave move, he said.


Patrician High School Principal Joe Duffy and Deputy Principal Sean Rafferty  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Patrician High School Principal Joe Duffy and Deputy Principal Sean Rafferty Photo: © Michael Fisher

School Inspection Praises High Staff Morale at Patrician High

Michael Fisher  Northern Standard  Carrickmacross News p.42

The desks were empty in the converted gym when I visited Patrician High School in Carrickmacross recently. But over the next few weeks the hall will be full of students doing their Leaving Certificate. Principal Joe Duffy and Deputy Principal Sean Rafferty have been ensuring that all necessary preparations are made for the 73 pupils sitting exams. It has been a busy year for them. In January the school underwent its own test, a rigorous whole school evaluation of management, leadership and learning, carried out over three days by two inspectors from the Department of Education and Skills. The high staff morale and motivation of the 35 teachers  was praised.

During the evaluation, the inspection team met the school’s board of management, in-school management, and groups of teachers, parents and students. Inspectors also reviewed a range of school documentation and responses to questionnaires and examined other data in relation to the operation of the school. A range of lessons in a number of subjects was inspected.

Patrician High School is a Catholic voluntary secondary school for boys under the trusteeship of the Bishop of Clogher. It has experienced a significant growth in student numbers in recent years and from a base of around 360 it now has a current enrolment of 507. Joe Duffy expects this will soon increase to 540.

The key findings of the inspection were that the teaching staff is motivated and that morale at the school is high. The senior management team provides effective leadership to the school and models the highest standards of commitment in all areas of school life.

Commitment to quality improvement is clearly evident among all partners of the school community, according to the report. The inspectors found that teaching and learning were effectively led by senior management and the quality observed in classrooms ranged from good to very good with instances of excellent teaching practice evident in many lessons. Finally, the report concluded that care of students received a high priority in the school and was managed effectively. The report made a number of recommendations, which the school is seeking to put into practice, including a review of the system for monitoring student attendance.

The report praised the senior management team for forming an effective partnership that modeled the highest standards of commitment to all areas of school life. A shared model of leadership has been established. According to the findings, “the senior management team prioritises an atmosphere of respect and good order as essential elements to providing optimal conditions for teaching and learning to take place.”

Staff morale is high, teachers are motivated and there is a high level of collaboration between staff and senior management, the report said. The dedication of staff to the provision of a wide range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is noted and affirmed by management. Transition Year students have had successes in competitions such as the BT Young Scientist, Young Social Innovators, Enterprise Awards at county, regional and national levels and the Scifest in Dundalk.

In Joe Duffy’s office there is a framed note from the Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte. Addressing the young pioneers, he told them “Always work at being the best; You can be and then you will be a real success”. Two of the virtues the staff try to instil are timekeeping and smart appearance, including wearing a clean pair of shoes.

Past pupils have also gone on to be very successful in various fields. They include RTE weatherman Gerry Murphy, RTE Director General Noel Curran and his brother Richard, comedian Oliver Callan, who first developed his mimicry at school concerts, another comedian Ardal O’Hanlon, and local councillors Padraig McNally and PJ O’Hanlon.

The school provides a broad curriculum and management has reviewed and amended the choice of subjects in response to changing demands. An example of this is the expanded provision of science subjects which now includes Agricultural Science. The report said it was notable that the optional Transition Year programme attracted almost all students. Student care and welfare are school priorities and good supports are provided from within the school’s support structure and through developing links with external agencies.

The newly refurbished school building is very well maintained and facilities are provided to a very high level. A stimulating learning environment has been provided in teacher-based classrooms. The library is open to students at lunchtime and has been brought into greater use by timetabled access to link with the school’s literacy improvement plan. The staff room has been recently extended to include a preparation and corrections area. There is a canteen and lunch area for students and part of it is covered in murals which have been painted with the guidance of the art teacher.

When Joe Duffy spoke to the Northern Standard, he pointed out he pictures along the walls showing the vast range of activities carried out by students. In the field of civic, social and political education they have undertaken trips to the Dáil and the Northern Ireland Assembly. On the sports field, pupils like Stephen O’Hanlon have been successful in basketball and he is now on a sports scholarship in the United States. Others have enjoyed success in football with the local GAA club Carrick Emmets. Hurling is also being developed. More sports success has occurred in swimming and in soccer.

Overall Joe Duffy said he was very pleased with the results of the official school evaluation. He said it showed the great contribution by staff to pastoral care and teaching and the way they had developed a camaraderie with the pupils in a spirit of collegiality. Mr Duffy said he was very pleased with the way things were going. He pointed out the principal values instilled in students: respect, be on time, be prepared, follow instructions and participate fully. He hoped those five important points would continue to be fostered in the next academic year at Patrician High School.


Checking the details of the EirGrid N/S Interconnector plan at the information meeting in Aughnamullen  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Checking the details of the EirGrid N/S Interconnector plan at the information meeting in Aughnamullen Photo: © Michael Fisher


Michael Fisher Northern Standard  Thursday 25th June

Landowners in South Monaghan whose farms and property are along the route of the proposed EirGrid North/South electricity interconnector say it would ruin their livelihoods for generations to come and would cause the biggest destruction ever seen in Ireland. Many of them came to Aughnamullen social centre on Monday night to see for themselves the full extend of the EirGrid plans which were submitted earlier this month to An Bord Pleanála. The County Monaghan Anti-Pylon Committee had obtained a hard copy of the application and large folders were spread out over a long table with maps showing the route of the proposed overground line, including the section close to Lough Egish.

EirGrid and its northern counterpart plan to construct 401 new pylons carrying an overhead 400kV supply line across five counties including Monaghan, Cavan and Meath. 109 of the towers would be erected in Monaghan. The power line from Woodland near Batterstown in County Meath to Turleenan near Dungannon in County Tyrone and passing across the border at Lemgare near Clontibret into County Armagh would be one of the biggest infrastructure developments on the island and so it was designated a Project of Common Interest by the European Commission

There is now a ten weeks period of statutory public consultation, running until Monday August 24th.

The Secretary of the Anti-Pylon Committee Mary Marron said they had organised three meetings in Aughnamullen, Cremartin and Corduff during the week to enable landowners to see exactly how their properties would be affected. They were also able to advise them about making submissions to An Bord Pleanála and what they needed to concentrate on. The committee will be taking its own legal advice on the application, she said.

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo:  © Michael Fisher

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo: © Michael Fisher

The maps on the table set out how pylons would be erected in townlands such as Cornasassonagh and Corrinenty. Landowners continued to question why they were being treated as second-class citizens, because the underground option was being considered for two other major electricity supply projects. They claimed the project would devalue their land. They felt that the plans to erect pylons would turn their land into construction sites and questioned the methods EirGrid would use for accessing their property.


Monaghan County Council has set up a sub-committee to discuss the interconnector application. It will meet in Castleblayney on July 13th and draw up a response. The Ballybay Clones Municipal District will also be making a submission objecting to EirGrid’s North/South Interconnector project.


Fianna Fáil Councillor Seamus Coyle, a farmer from Latton, said the EirGrid proposals were totally unacceptable to local landowners. He claimed that the company had not gone out onto the ground and looked at the situation for individual farmers regarding access to their property for the construction work on the pylons. He said the project was contrary to the Monaghan County Council development plan 2013-19 and the sustainable development of the county. He told the Northern Standard it was important that councillors supported the concerns of local people in relation to this project. He claimed the local access roads needed for EirGrid construction work would be totally unfit for purpose in areas such as Corduff and Raferagh. He claimed that the electricity transmission company had not gone out onto the ground to inspect properties that would be affected, but had done an aerial survey instead. This was in contrast to the approach adopted by SONI in the North, where engineers had walked almost 97% of the planned route. He claimed EirGrid had not taken into account the implications for fauna and wildlife in the countryside as well as heritage spots such as ancient burial grounds.

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo:  © Michael Fisher

EirGrid documentation about the N/S Interconnector Photo: © Michael Fisher


Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West Matt Carthy called on the public to engage with the consultation process and to outline their concerns. He said:

“Unfortunately, due to the Strategic Infrastructure Act enacted by the Fianna Fáil government with the support of Fine Gael, the planning process for the North/South Interconnector is, in my view, flawed. However, that should not prevent interested individuals and communities engaging with the public consultation process during which time the public may provide submissions and observations to An Bord Pléanala. The consultation closes at 5.30pm on Monday 24th August.”

Mr Carthy said Sinn Féin representatives had been working closely with all those groups and communities in Counties Monaghan, Armagh, Cavan, Tyrone and Meath who have been engaged in a campaign since 2007 against the EirGrid and NIE/SONI plans to impose 400kv overhead power lines and associated pylons on their landscapes.

“The concerns are very real; there are genuine worries for health, our environment, the landscape, the economic development of the areas concerned. The communities concerned have made their position crystal clear: the North/South Interconnector can only proceed on the basis that it is undergrounded. Sinn Féin fully supports that position and we will be preparing our own submission to An Bord Pléanala on this issue”.

“This project, despite 97% landowner opposition, is the only EirGrid project that remains unchanged since 2009 following its exclusion from the EirGrid national review. Report after report, including one published by the government appointed International expert commission have clearly proved that undergrounding of the power lines is both possible and feasible. Indeed, many argue that in the medium to long term, undergrounding is economically beneficial. I am calling on the public to take this opportunity to outline their position on this project and ensure that their voice is heard”, the MEP said.


Matt Carthy was also critical of EirGrid for charging members of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign (NEPPC) €5000 for each hard copy of the planning application. The group had requested four copies of the application for their members and had also asked EirGrid to provide a hard copy to each landowner affected by the application.

Commenting on the correspondence between the NEPPC and EirGrid officials, the MEP said:

“It is completely outrageous that a full hard copy of this planning application costs €5000. I agree with the members of the North East Pylon Pressure Campaign that the astronomical costs involved in obtaining a copy of this application will put it out of the reach of many in the community affected by the proposed pylons.”

“The message from the local communities could not be clearer – they do not want overhead pylons blighting some of the most historical landscapes of this country and presenting a real danger to their communities. This is another slap in the face to the community who have had to listen to PR exercise after PR exercise from EirGrid stating their full commitment to engage with local communities on the proposed pylons.”

Mr Carthy went on: “While I acknowledge that soft copies of the application are provided on CD, many people need access to a hard copy for various reasons and it would be expected at the least that the landowners affected could receive a copy of the application. EirGrid cannot expect to be to be taken seriously on its claims of extensive public consultation while communities are effectively excluded from the planning process and I am calling on the company to make the application more readily available.”

Sean Conlan T.D.  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Sean Conlan T.D. Photo: © Michael Fisher


The Fine Gael T.D. Sean Conlan attended the information evening at Aughnamullen. He said the County Monaghan Anti Pylon Committee deserved great credit for the effort they have put into organising the series of meetings this week to explain to the landowners affected in detail exactly what Eirgrid proposed to do on their land. He strongly encouraged anyone who wanted to find out further information in respect of the proposed route and how it affected their property and their community and who wished to obtain advice in relation to submitting a submission to An Bord Pleanála to contact the committee.

Deputy Conlan said: “The resilience and collective objection of the community as a whole to this application is paramount in trying to achieve our ultimate goal of having this project undergrounded. It is very important that the community continues to stand together to object to this new application by EirGrid to overground the North/South interconnector. By standing together as one the community stands the best chance of defeating EirGrid in their endeavours to put this project overground. It is very clear to me that the communities affected are more determined than ever that EirGrid are defeated.”

“I am available at any time to provide any advice or any assistance I can to members of the community and landowners who wish to make submissions detailing their concerns about EirGrid’s application and how it affects them, their families, their farms and their community. I want to reassure everybody in all the communities affected that I remain fully opposed to the overgrounding of this project by EirGrid. I will be making my own submission to An Bord Pleanála opposing EirGrid’s application to put the interconnector overground.”


Fine Gael Councillor Eugene Bannigan also attended the information evenings. He told the Northern Standard: “Over the last number of weeks EirGrid have published their plans for a new application to an Bord Pleanála where they are looking to build 401 new pylons over five counties. However EirGrid have not walked the full route so they don’t know what damage they could do to wildlife and protected species in the surrounding areas.”

Councillor Bannigan went on: “The recent launch of new farming schemes shows certain requirements are needed in order to be granted acceptance to the scheme, and this means land will be let go wild for Gaming and Wild Bird cover. So if a farmer on the grid is planning to let some of their crops go wild in order to meet these certain requirements, then the Department of Agriculture must help out, and if several farmers along the grid do this then it can slow up the process with An Bord Pleanála, and on the other hand you have the Department for Energy trying to let this interconnector grid go up. It doesn’t make sense as on one hand the government is trying to help farmers and this means let land go wild, and on the other hand, the government is trying to let EirGrid go ahead. So it’s the government versus the government.”

Brendan Smith T.D.

Brendan Smith T.D.


Fianna Fáil T.D. for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has criticised the Communications Minister Alex White for refusing to consider a motion by Monaghan County Council calling for the cessation of work on the North/South Interconnector so that the project could be undergrounded. The motion came on foot of comments made by EirGrid’s Chief Executive during a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, when he admitted that the undergrounding of the lines was technically feasible.

Deputy Smith commented, “I am extremely disappointed by Minister Alex White’s stance on this issue.  Despite submitting a range of Parliamentary Questions raising concerns about the fact that the underground option was not being considered, he failed to give any straight answers, choosing to evade the specific questions.

“The North-South interconnector is an extremely contentious issue here on the border. People have grave concerns about the fact that the Government appears to be content to press ahead with the overhead lines option, without giving due consideration to the possibility of undergrounding them.  This is despite the fact that the head of EirGrid told the Oireachtas Communications Committee that it is technically feasible to put the lines underground.

“It is extremely unfair that the Government is continuing to refuse a review of the North-South interconnector plans, especially in light of the fact that the other two Grid Link projects are being reconsidered.  People here feel as if they are being ignored by this Government, which is refusing to take their concerns on board, and is now even refusing to give credible answers to Parliamentary Questions, and has now effectively passed the buck back to Eirgrid.

“I am very disappointed with the Minister’s evasive and hands-off approach to this issue.  There has been a substantial reduction in the potential cost of the undergrounding project, yet Minister White is refusing to reconsider.  This is not good enough and the people of Cavan and Monaghan will simply not accept it. I will be continuing to put Minister White under pressure to review this project to ensure a safe and secure energy supply for people living on the border”, Deputy Smith concluded.

QUESTION: To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources his views on the recent decision by EirGrid to submit a planning application for the North South Interconnector without consideration being given to the options of undergrounding this project; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Brendan Smith.  

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)
In January 2014, an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) was established to oversee the integrity of the process being undertaken by EirGrid to report on comprehensive, route-specific studies of overhead and underground options for both the Grid Link (GL) and Grid West (GW) projects. While the North South Transmission Line project (N/S) is outside the IEP’s Terms of Reference, the IEP did agree, on foot of a request by my predecessor, to provide an opinion on the compatibility of the methodologies, to be employed on the GL and GW projects with what had already been done on the N/S project up to and including 2 May 2014, being the date that the IEP decided to examine the N/S project. 
Having considered and discussed all of the material, the Panel issued a statement on 1 July 2014, indicating its unanimous opinion that, in all material respects, what had already been done on the N/S project is compatible with the methodologies being employed on the GW and GL projects. 
On 27 March 2015 EirGrid published a new independently peer reviewed draft Strategy which allows for the achievement of an optimal balance between the competing demands of publicly consulting on necessary network development, choosing the best emerging technology options for that development, and minimising new build. The draft strategy found that there remains a clear need for the North South transmission line, and that the existing proposal for a 400kV overhead line remains the most appropriate solution for the project.  


Tin Church, Laragh, Co. Monaghan  Photo: European Heritage Days

Tin Church, Laragh, Co. Monaghan Photo: European Heritage Days

Summer School Explores Historic Buildings of Monaghan and Armagh  Northern Standard Thursday 25th June

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and Irish Georgian Society came together in an exciting new initiative to provide a cross border summer school in Monaghan and Armagh from Thursday until Saturday. Conservation without Frontiers explored and discussed built heritage in the context of both counties, showcasing the best they have to offer in terms of their history and historic buildings, such as Castle Leslie in Glaslough and the Tin Church in Laragh.

St Macartan's Cathedral, Monaghan

St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan

The first section of the summer school was opened on Thursday in Armagh by a representative of the Northern Ireland Department of Environment Minister Mark H. Durkan. It then moved to Monaghan, where Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht opened day two. The Summer School concluded on Saturday at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig near Newbliss with a celebratory picnic lunch.

In Armagh, the school undertook visits to both Cathedrals, the former Primate’s Chapel and Palace, the Mall and the Market Square. In Monaghan the participants visited Castle Leslie, Glaslough, and community-led projects such the Dawson Mausoleum, Dartrey and St Peter’s Church, Laragh. Tours and visits were guided by experts in the field including well known academics, architectural historians, architects, planners, conservation and heritage officers. A walking tour of Monaghan on Friday will be led by Kevin V. Mulligan from Carrickmacross. Speakers included Dawson Stelfox, Dr Andrew McClelland, Professor Alistair Rowan, and Bishop Emeritus Dr Joseph Duffy. The event brought together local people, enthusiasts, students and practitioners to learn from the unique buildings of both counties.

Twenty students from the the island of Ireland, Britain and Europe benefited from funded places to complement their ongoing studies and help develop their knowledge of conservation issues. They also took part in a heritage based competition proposing new ideas for  the restoration of Hope Castle, Castleblayney and an empty site on Upper English Street in Armagh. The event was supported by Monaghan County Council, Armagh City and District Council, the Heritage Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Minister Durkan said: ‘I am particularly supportive of this initiative as it brings together heritage expertise from both sides of the border to help develop and realise our mutual  interest in conservation and regeneration for community benefit.  Our built heritage is a catalyst for so many things that are vital to the lifeblood of our villages, towns and cities.  It is therefore important that we work together to realise its full potential. My  department  continues to work in partnership with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and I commend both it  and the Irish Georgian Society for their vision in arranging this summer school.’


Annalitten National School near Castleblayney Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Annalitten National School near Castleblayney Photo: © Michael Fisher

BIG REUNION FOR ANNALITTEN NS         Michael Fisher   Northern Standard

It’s fifty years since the pupils of Annalitten National School outside Castleblayney in the parish of Muckno made the big move from the Old School to the New School. To mark this milestone, the past pupils organised a school reunion on Saturday 27th June. The event marked the 50th anniversary of the move in 1965 to the current premises. It took place at the school at 4pm and many former students were in attendance, as was the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys T.D. After the reminiscing at the school, a social evening was held at the Glencarn Hotel, Castleblayney.

Stone plaque with name of school scratched out during WWII Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Stone plaque with name of school scratched out during WWII Photo: © Michael Fisher

The organising committee put together a selection of photographs of people who went to Annalitten school. Annalitten is a two-classroom co-educational Catholic primary school with a fascinating history. Elizabeth Brannigan was one of the organisers of the reunion. Five generations of her family have attended Analitten school, including herself.

Stone plaque for Annalitten NS celebrations  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Stone plaque for Annalitten NS celebrations Photo: © Michael Fisher

Past pupil John McBride has researched the story of the school and to launch the reunion shared some interesting facts about the old building:

Annalitten Car Park’s Amazing Secret

If you were to walk past Annalitten’s fine National School, chances are you would hardly give a second glance to or even notice the adjoining car park. But this spot has a secret.  It was the site of a building with a remarkable claim to fame. That building, the’ Old School’, was no ordinary school around the corner, as it was born with a roar that would be heard as far as the Westminster Parliament.

1888 was a year of beginnings, including the founding of the National Geographic Society, Celtic FC playing its first official match, and the birth of John Painter, who would live to the 21st century and become the world’s oldest man.  The Castleblayney townland of Annalitten celebrated its own ‘first’ with the opening of a National School.  You might think that this local affair would hardly cause a stir, even in ‘Blayney.  But events would prove otherwise.

Soon after Annalitten NS opened, the RIC called on three local families.  Leading Irish MP, Tim Healy, heard about the police visits.  In May 1888, in the House of Commons, he questioned the Chief Secretary Arthur Balfour about the incident. Balfour replied that some children had been moved to Annalitten from the nearby mixed religion schoool. Three Catholic families kept their children at the mixed school. It’s believed that the local church was putting pressure on these families to send their children to Annalitten. The famililes were visited by the local police in order to establish the full facts.

The full text of the discussion can be read in the Hansard Parliamentary report for May 14th 1888 p.144. In the document, the politicians are referred to as ‘Mr. T. M. Healy (Longford, N.)’ and ‘A. J. Balfour (Manchester, E.)’. Annalitten is spelt as ‘Annalitton’

Annalitten being mentioned at Westminster is a great feat, but the central characters in the discussions make it even more special. They were both political giants. Arthur Balfour would  serve as British Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905. Tim Healy would go on to become the first Governor General of the Irish Free State in 1922.

The ‘Old School’ at Annalitten was replaced by a new building, a short distance away, in 1965.  The old building went on to serve as a community centre until it was demolished in the early 21st century, its longevity surpassing John Painter’s by just a few years. There is now a car park on the site, surely making it one of the most historic parking lots in Monaghan and Ireland.
© John E. McBride 2015