Plans to expand integrated school opposed

Lisburn councillors who objected to increasing enrolment at a primary school in Moira have denied they are opposed to integrated education.

The South Eastern Education and Library Board wrote to the council recently, revealing it is to publish a development proposal on Rowandale Integrated Primary School.

The SEELB wants to increase admission numbers at the school from September 2015 and increase enrolment numbers on an annual basis until September 2020.

The issue was debated at the recent meeting of the Corporate Services Committee when members agreed to voice the council’s opposition to the development proposal.

The committee listed a number of objections, including the potential damage caused to neighbouring smaller schools like Maghaberry and Maralin primary schools, who “already have concerns about their viability”.

The objection was criticised when the matter came before the full council with Alliance Councillor Brian Dornan proposing that the response from the Corporate Services Committee not be ratified and instead be withdrawn and the matter given further consideration.

Mr Dornan’s proposal was supported by the SDLP’s Brian Heading. The Alliance man requested a recorded vote but his attempt failed, with 14 members voting against the plan to withdraw the paper to the board and eight for.

DUP councillor Alderman Allan Ewart denied the objectors had been motivated by an opposition to integrated education. “This has nothing to do with integration. To turn this into a sectarian divide is not on,” he said.

UUP Councillor Alderman Jim Dillon agreed, stressing that if you supported the decision taken by Corporate Services Committee, it did not mean you are not in support of integration.

DUP Alderman Paul Porter said: “This is about schools not religion. I think this is for standing up for schools that have been there for years. This is not about the progression of one school but all schools.”