E-mails show SNP leader Jonathon McColl was invited – despite his protest that he wasn’t
Archbishop Tartaglia and Councillor Jonathan McColl, whose SNP group want to close St Martin’s PS in Renton.
By BILL HEANEY
February 13, 2018 – Community activist Drew Mac Eoghainn views it as a very positive response from Archbishop Philip Tartaglia.
But others more sceptical consider the Catholic leader’s response to the Parent Council’s request for him to defend St Martin’s Primary School in Renton to be bland and non-committal.
West Dunbartonshire Council’s proposal to close St Martin’s, which is currently accommodated in the Vale of Leven Academy complex, comes in the centenary year of the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act.
This Act, which gives Catholics the right to their own schools in perpetuity, was partly drafted by Monsignor Hugh Canon Kelly, the legendary parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, who was widely known as “the Pope of the Clyde”.
Archbishop Tartaglia’s response to the parents who wrote to him has been described by Mr MacEoghainn as “very positive”.
It says the Archdiocese of Glasgow is a stakeholder – “And, in this case, as in others, you can be sure that the Archdiocese will endeavour to argue for what is the best outcome to ensure that Catholic education is available in the short, medium and long term for the local Catholic community.
“And I suggest that this is the focus that St Martin’s PS Parent Council should adopt as we head into the consultation period”
One mother, Claire Gallagher, has written to Drew MacEoghainn praising the parents’ campaign.
She wrote: “Your campaign and that of other parents is absolutely awe inspiring and I wish there were more people like you in communities across West Dunbartonshire, standing up for what they believe in and holding this shameful administration to account. Myself and all at Faifley Community Council wish you well. “
Mr Mac Eoghainn, a father of three, replied: “To be honest I would rather focus on my day job (one which I am totally under qualified to do) looking after my three kids than fighting again against another administration who are looking to rip Catholic education from my village. But as long as they do the people of Renton will resist!”
Claire Gallagher wrote: “The people of The Renton will indeed and keep doing what you are doing. This is an officer run administration and that’s why you need the full backing of the Archdiocese.”
Three generations of the Mac Eoghainn family have attended St Martin’s.
Mr Mac Eoghainn said: “My wee gran always said ‘never let them take our school’ and i don’t fancy facing her if they close it. It must remain open.”
One sceptical grandparent, who did not wish to be named, said: “I’m not saying I disbelieve the Archbishop but these are powder puff words from him and that statement about the best outcome leaves him a very wide open back door to exit blameless from this controversy. He has hardly come out fighting for our school.”
The Archdiocesan representative on the council’s Education Services Committee is former Dumbarton head teacher Ellen McBride. She has not attended any parents’ meetings.
And nor has Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the council SNP administration, who was “empty chaired” when 90 people gathered in St Martin’s Hall in the village Main Street.
He claims he was never invited to the parents’ meeting but goes on to thank the parents for their invitation which he declined in writing.
Lest there be doubt, this is what he wrote to the chairperson, Steven Storrie: “Thank you for your invitation to attend tomorrow night’s meeting. Unfortunately, the Community Party have turned this issue into a political football creating a situation where there is a significant risk of a breach of the Councillors’ code of conduct, and therefore we respectfully must decline.”
He added: “We have outlined our thoughts in the attached statement, that we have also copied to local press contacts.”
Democrat readers will be disappointed to learn that Cllr McColl and the SNP appear not to consider this new, on-line newspaper to be part of the local media, although other organisations and political parties do.
The fact that we have repeatedly challenged his contact to Cllr Iain McLaren to comment on why he chose to praise Meallmore, who have bought Langcraigs Old People’s Home from the Council when a simple examination of their background would have revealed questionable conduct by their staff.
Cllr McColl’s e mail to the parents’ council ended: “I am very sorry that we have been put in this position, but rest assured that if there is a statutory consultation, we will look very closely at the responses and make the best decision possible for the pupils.
“I am quite disappointed that some politicians and the local media have colluded to convince parents that only one option is being considered.”
Drew MacEoghainn said: “St Martin’s Parent Council’s only demand is that the SNP do not eradicate Catholic education from the village after 118 successful years.”
Cllr Jim Bollan, who has represented Renton on the council over a long number of years, said: “It is worrying from a WDC governance point of view that this is the level of competence of some SNP councllors.”