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Irene bids farewell after 38 years service



FAREWELL: After 38 years service Irene O'Keeffe retired from Coolick National School. 


By Michelle Crean

Emotions were high in one Kilcummin school this week as children and staff said farewell to their school principal after 38 years dedicated service.

Irene O'Keeffe, who has taught in Coolick National School for 38 years - 23 of those as principal - has even deeper connections to the parish educational facility as she herself attended as a child, and even watched her children blossom there over the years.

On Thursday, staff, pupils, members of the Board of Management and the Parents Association, gathered outside for a special ceremony, where they made presentations as a thank you.

"Irene is a past pupil of the school where many generations of her own family have attended, including her own children, John, Daniel and Anne," Deputy Principal Tara O'Donoghue told the Killarney Advertiser.

"Irene’s pride in the school was nurtured at a very young age and she has passed this sense of pride onto both staff and pupils over the years. Irene made everyone welcome in Coolick school. She embraced the staff as if they were members of her own family and she loved the children as her own. She believes that “you give children roots so they can grow wings” and she modelled Coolick school accordingly. She lived out the saying “Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí”."

The belief that the school is an extension of the home is core to Irene's philosophy and she embodied this in all her daily interactions. She had an excellent rapport with parents over the years.

During her time in Coolick Irene saw many changes in education and she did her very best to embrace every new change and implement it for the benefit of the children.

During her principalship a large extension was built onto the school, and with huge parental involvement an Astro pitch was added in 2014 along with an Aistear playground which promotes learning through play.

Irene added that she had the great privilege of working and living in the community she grew up in.

"I have been blessed with great co-workers whom I refer to as my school family and also with a strong school community. There is an underswell of good will and volunteering of time here that goes unseen. Using a modern analogy in this unprecedented time, I have worked in the idyllic “pod” within the parish "bubble” all of my teaching life. I have been so lucky to see our school and its community become one and the same. The privilege of being the custodian of this lovely school since 1999 has been my reward."

Irene is now looking forward to spending quality time with her family; travelling with her husband Dinny post-COVID, and having time to indulge in her hobbies which includes hillwalking and gardening.



Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes



Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.

The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.

Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.

The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.

“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.


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Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate



By Chris Davies

Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.

Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin. 

“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”

Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.

While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.  

This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.  

There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week. 

The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out. 

On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.  

However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.  

The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence. 

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