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Ursula prepares for retirement after 42 years at The Mercy




Most of us will chose one or even two career paths in some shape or form throughout our lives, exploring different avenues and sometimes in opposite directions.

42 years of dedication to any one establishment, to any one community, requires a huge level of commitment, devotion and loyalty. My lens and I visited many of our national schools over the past week so I seized the opportunity to revisit Holy Cross Mercy National School to chat to principal Ursula Coffey ahead of her retirement.

“I attended Carysfort College in Dublin after graduating from Coláiste Íde in Dingle," Ursula explained.

"From Gneevguilla, Dublin was the most direct route to becoming a teacher. From Rathmore train station, direct to Dublin, it was the simplest route for my mother, who had just started to drive, shortly after my dad passed away when I was just 15. Past principal Sr Carmel (RIP) was a sister of my father's. She was principal at The Mercy from the early '80s until 1991 where Sr Regina took over until 2005. I was the eldest of four siblings and we all went to college in Dublin.

"There are no two days the same in many lines of work Marie but education is forever changing and evolving. Together with Catriona Behan and Catherine Mangan, who were hugely innovative with technology, we began an Erasmus project visiting Ylitornio, Finland, just half an hour away from the Arctic Circle, and frequented Birmingham regularly, where Apple devices changed our methods of teaching forever. Technology was used to differentiate for all needs and gave the ability to be creative making the way forward in communication so relevant. 2007/08 gave way for a massive change in reading and writing and thank God for it as it has seriously benefited every child. Literacy is enormously important for every subject but hugely for maths. Personally I felt there was too much emphasis on paperwork. The children are always and ever the centre of every decision we made at The Mercy NS. I spent 25 years as a teacher, dominantly Sixth Class girls, before becoming principal for a further 17 years,” she said.


“What has been your proudest moment at The Mercy Ursula?" I asked. I completely caught her on the hop. “There have been many Marie, but daily it brings me great joy to see happy children learning. It doesn’t matter what country you come from, we are inclusive and encourage creativity. We have a proud catholic heritage with the nuns since 1844 but here at The Mercy we welcome all religions and nationalities. I am grateful to have a superb team with over 50 staff, excluding the pre-school, which was originally set up by the nuns in the early '80s to facilitate children who could not attend private pre-schools. They were strong women who saw the need. We have also been blessed with excellent Board of Management teams along the way, who have offered immense support and guidance,” Ursula replied.

Ursula was being modest. She herself was a strong woman who saw the need. With prior knowledge, I began to poke a little more.

“A friend of mine works at your Autism Unit Ursula. I visited once with my lens - most impressive. That was built under your reign was it?” I asked.

“It was built in 2016 with four classes, with one purpose built room. Recently we were granted €4.2 million for a centre of excellence purpose built ASD Unit to up our expertise in that area. The nuns have gifted us the land at the back of the school and we are hopeful to put in an astro turf play area too but we will have to see how the build goes first. The department of education have done a lot in the upkeep of the school but if I won the Lotto in the morning we need a new hall!" Ursula joked. Indeed a strong woman who saw the need I thought, and what a legacy to leave behind.


“How do you feel about retirement Ursula,” I asked.

“I don’t like to talk about it much. My life has been The Mercy. My children went to school here and I taught my youngest, Jennifer, in Sixth Class. I remember taking a notion that she would ask me to be her sponsor for her confirmation to which she replied "mum, you will be too busy with all the other children". I had plans to retire a few years ago as my husband Kieran retired as principal from Fossa NS over 10 years ago but when COVID hit, how could I leave such mayhem? There was more work than ever to be done in setting up an education system that worked for the children at home. I had never been so thankful that we had always had the wheels of technology in motion here at The Mercy. The majority of the children were so resilient and bounced back in the gates of the school as if it never happened. This made me very happy."

“Have you any plans for your retirement,” I asked Ursula.

“My son Niall lives in Vancouver and is getting married to his fiancee Megan in July of next year, so we are really looking forward to that,” Ursula said.

“And where are your other children,” I asked. “Jennifer is married to Lee in Dublin and she works as a medical scientist in Temple Street. My son Fintan is a Garda in Macroom and is married to Laura and they have two girls, Sophie and Stella. My husband Kieran works two days per week still with the diocese and we look forward to celebrating our Ruby wedding anniversary next March, so there’s lots to look forward to Marie.”

It was soon photo time which Ursula considered the ‘worst part’. We made our way to vice principal Anne Lucey’s room, who has also served a lengthy time of 36 years at The Mercy. On the way she told me about how Ursula set up Accord in Killarney, Ireland's leading nationwide agency supporting marriages and relationships, which Ursula had forgotten to mention. This didn’t surprise me at all. I was also informed of her famous brownies, a must at Board of Management meetings, especially enjoyed by Fr Niall Howard.

Opting for accompaniment in her retirement portrait, Ursula is pictured with present teachers at The Mercy, Alice O’Donnell Davern and Frances Arthur, all who began their first day in Junior Infants at the school on September 1 1980, the same day Ursula began her lengthy teaching career in our community, educating all at Holy Cross Mercy NS for the past 42 years.

Thank you for having me Ursula, the pleasure was mine entirely.



Credit Union launch a new collaboration with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd.

Building on recent success the Credit Unions of Kerry and West Limerick have launched a new collaboration with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd. Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd specialise in Photovoltaic (PV) […]




Building on recent success the Credit Unions of Kerry and West Limerick have launched a new collaboration with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd.

Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd specialise in Photovoltaic (PV) Solar systems that generate electricity, battery storage, air to water heat-pumps and much more.
Gilroy’s work with customers to receive the SEAI once-off grant towards the purchase and installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and heat pumps for your home.
Collaborating with Kerry and West Limerick Credit Union expands the finance options available to Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd customers to help finance new PV Solar Panel installations. Loan rates will be directly linked to the property BER starting from 4.7%(4.89APR) for an “A” rated BER.
Martin Gilroy; CEO with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd said: “We are delighted to officially launch this collaboration with the Credit Unions of Kerry and West Limerick. Customers have already reaped the benefits on recent installation projects after contacting their local Credit Union. Having a direct link to local Credit Unions allows us to guide customers to affordable financing options based on the specific installation quotation we provide at very competitive rates.“
Speaking on behalf of the Kerry and West Limerick Credit Unions, Ashley Fitzgerald added: “We are delighted to have Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd come on board as part of our Greener Homes Loan offering. Home Energy Upgrade have become a prominent concern and talking point among members in recent months, by Credit Unions having a direct link with Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd allows both sides to make referrals and seek the best finance option for members. We are working hard building relationships with Green Energy Ltd providers as we want to ensure our members can avail of the best loan rates for all upgrade works.”
Credit Unions across Kerry and West Limerick. Abbeyfeale Credit Union, Cara Credit Union, Killarney Credit Union, Listowel Credit Union and Rathmore and District Credit Union can be reached via:
Gilroy’s Green Energy Ltd can be contacted on 066-7115920, email or for more information visit

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Racegoers Club to host Cheltenham Preview Night

Killarney Racegoers Club will host its annual Cheltenham Preview Night in Corkery’s Bar on March 7. Admission is free and this year’s chosen beneficiary is the Killarney Branch of St […]




Killarney Racegoers Club will host its annual Cheltenham Preview Night in Corkery’s Bar on March 7.

Admission is free and this year’s chosen beneficiary is the Killarney Branch of St Vincent De Paul Society.
The expert panel includes professional punter Paddy Wilmott, leading jockey Conor McNamara, up-and-coming Kerry-based trainer Eoin McCarthy and local bookmaker Brendan Tyther with Vince Casey acting as the event’s compere.

“There is no admission fee but a raffle on the night for dual membership of Killarney Racegoers Club for the year, which includes 13 days racing and many reciprocal days to other race meetings,” said Mr Casey.

The Cheltenham Festival begins on March 12.


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