Introduction

Scoil Mhuire agus Íde is a lay-owned co-educational Voluntary Catholic Secondary School and was formed in 1992 following the amalgamation of Scoil Mhuire, a convent secondary school run by the Sisters of Mercy and St. Ita's Secondary School for boys. The school has a Board of Trustees and a Board of Management and it follows the curricular programmes prescribed by the Department of Education and Science (DES), which may be amended from time to time in accordance with sections 9 and 30 of the Education Act 1998. It operates within the regulations laid down by the DES, which may be amended from time to time. The school depends on the grants and resources provided by the DES and school policy in all areas must have regard to the resources and funding made available to us by the DES.



Scoil Mhuire

Scoil Mhuire, or the Convent, as it was more generally known, had its beginnings as an orphanage in St. Catherine's Sisters of Mercy Convent back in 1850. The orphanage continued until 1927. The Sisters then decided to establish a preparatory school which groomed girls for one or two years, after they left primary school at the age of sixteen, as a preparation for employment. This was replaced by a Secondary Top in 1933 which later evolved into a secondary school in the 1950's. Initially this secondary school was classified as an "A" school i.e. it taught all subjects through the medium of Irish.

In the early 1960's it reverted to teaching all subjects, except Irish, through the medium of English. A changing curriculum and a lack of text books written in Irish forced this change. Sr. Dominica was appointed as Manager and Principal of St. Catherines convent in 1962. She continued in this dual capacity until 1986 when she retired from the Principalship and Mary Ahern succeeded her as Principal. Sr. Dominica remained on as manager. With the introduction of free Post Primary Education in 1967 the number of students entering the Convent school increased dramatically and Sr. Dominica built a new school - a prefabricated structure - about 100 yards from St. Catherine's convent. The students were relocated to this school in February of 1970. The school was called Scoil Mhuire. It continued thus with increasing student numbers and staff until the amalgamation in September of 1992.


St. Itas

In the early summer of 1935 a committee of the Newcastle West Protective and Town Traders Association and the parish priest Canon Dwane received permission from the Department of Education to establish a boys secondary school in Newcastle West. Permission was also received from the County Limerick Library committee to rent a large hall in the Newcastle West Carnegie Library. The school was based in this large hall. Mr. Denis A. O' Dwyer was appointed as Headmaster with James Breen as his assistant. On the 10th September 1935 St. Ita's male Secondary School was opened. In all 32 pupils presented themselves. Mention should be made here of the efforts made from the start to stimulate interest among the pupils in our national games. Permission was obtained to utilise the local G.A.A. field and on Wednesday afternoon, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. weather permitting, the boys played hurling and football under the supervision of the teaching staff.

In 1944 Mr. James Breen succeeded Mr. A.O' Dwyer as headmaster. About this time also the governing body handed over their responsibility to Jim Breen. Between the 1940's and the 1960's the number of students grew and the school extended to other parts of the building and in the mid 1960's Jim bought the entire building - the Carnegie Library - from the County Library Committee. With the advent of free post primary education in 1967 the number of students outstripped the accommodation and it was necessary to build an extension to the back of the school giving it two extra rooms.

In 1976 Jim Breen retired from the position of Principal and Mr. Willie O'Donnell succeeded him for one year. Willie was succeeded by Noel Ruddle in 1977 but Noel met with an untimely death in 1981. Noel was succeeded by Des Healy as Principal. Jim Breen died in 1984 and Des Healy became manager of St. Ita's. Des continued as Manager and Principal until the amalgamation in 1992. By this time there were 290 students attending with a staff of 14.


Scoil Mhuire agus Íde

By the end of the seventies it was clear that neither Scoil Mhuire nor St. Ita's provided a proper environment to educate the young people of Newcastle West and the catchment area. It was necessary to think of amalgamation. In 1981 after consultation with the department, the Vocational Education Committee and the Managers/Trustees of both schools it was decided to amalgamate Scoil Mhuire and St. Ita's. A private limited company, Comhairle Meanscoil Mhuire agus Ide Teoranta, was set up to progress this decision. It was chaired by David Cahill. The Secretary was Paddy Geary and the Treasurer was Sgt. John Murphy. Sr. Dominica and Des Healy, also on the committee, liased with the Dept. of Education. Since the decision was to set up a voluntary secondary school at a cost of £3 million this obliged the Comhairle to raise 10% of this i.e. £300,000. This was a huge sum in the economically difficult circumstances of the 1980's but the people of the catchment area rose to the challenge and were very generous in the request for funds. People committed themselves to a monthly contribution over a five year period and by 1987 substantial funds were raised. By this time all the planning of the school by the Department was completed but the Government deferred the decision to build indefinitely.

In 1990 the local politician, Jerry Collins T.D., introduced the idea of building the school using a public-private partnership arrangement. This system meant that an investment company would pay for the building of the school and be repaid over a period of twenty years by the Department of Education. Our 10% would be paid up front and the school would be owned by the Comhairle from day one. The Department adopted the idea and thus Scoil Mhuire agus Íde was the first school to be built using this system. The builders, Tom Hayes and Sons, started in May of 1991 and the school was ready for occupation on the 1st September 1992. In the mean time a field of 3.7 acres, adjacent to the school came on the market and the Comhairle decided to purchase same, as a playing field, at a cost of over £60,000. In order to pay our contribution of 10%, a loan of £170,000 was raised at the Bank of Ireland at a rate of 15 ¾%. The officers, David Cahill, Paddy Geary, Sgt. John Murphy plus Sr. Dominica and Des Healy acted as guarantors on the loan. At this time also the Comhairle appointed these same people as Trustees of the new school. The Trustees appointed an eight member Board of Management on the basis agreed by the Dept of Education, the Association of Managers of Catholic Secondary Schools and the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland i.e. four members nominated by the Trustees, two members appointed by the parents and two members appointed by the teachers. The Trustees decided to offer the Bishop of Limerick one of their nominations. This was taken up by the Bishop. The Board of Management appointed Paddy Geary as the school's first Principal and Mary Ahern was appointed as Deputy Principal. On the 1st. September 1992 the school opened with 691 students, 38 teaching staff, one secretary and one caretaker.

The school was officially opened by the Minister for Education, Ms. Niamh Breathnach on the 4th October 1993. On the 1st August 2001 Mary Ahern retired, Paddy Geary was appointed Deputy Principal and Sheilagh O'Mahony-Kennedy was appointed as Principal . Since its opening Scoil Mhuire agus Ide has consistently tried to maintain the educational philosophy and ethos of its predecessors - Scoil Mhuire and St. Itas.