THE DEPARTMENT OF Education’s plans to convert Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham back into a secondary school by September seems “incredibly ambitious” according to the property management company currently looking after its upkeep. However, the new school’s management contend the project can be completed in time for the start of term.
The imposing 291-year-old Georgian building, which sits on a 4.5 acre plot in the south Dublin suburb, was sold to the Department of Education by NAMA this week for a reported €2.3 million. It’s planned a new Irish language post-primary school ‘Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh‘ will open by 1 September.
The massive building hasn’t been in full use since 1999, when it was brought by Riversmith Limited, a company owned by developer Liam Carroll. It was later taken over by NAMA, and in recent years the main building has been occupied by ‘live-in guardians‘ on behalf of vacant property management company Camelot.
There’s been no estimate as yet from the Department of Education as to when work may begin on the site, and contacted by TheJournal.ie yesterday a Camelot press spokesperson said “we’re asking the same question ourselves”.
“It seems incredibly ambitious to go for September,” the spokesperson said, noting that the company couldn’t comment publicly on contacts with clients.
Prior to it being put on the market last autumn, extensive renovations were carried out to weather-proof the buildings in the complex, which also include a chapel and a PE hall.
However, it’s understood significant building works will have to be carried out if the former school is to be reopened to students.
A meeting of parents interested in sending their children to the new school held at Bewley’s Hotel earlier this week was attended by around 150 people.
“We unveiled the location of the school for the first time, and obviously the parents were delighted with the location and the building,” Caoimhín Ó hEaghra of patron body An Foras Pátrúnachta told TheJournal.ie.
The board of management hopes to confirm enrolment numbers by next Wednesday, and it’s planned the school will open to first years only on 1 September.
There’s obviously works to be carried out, but we’re in discussions with the Department, and the plan is to proceed with a phased development of the building space.
Ó hEaghra said the plan was to move students into the central building first, and to expand in subsequent years as more first year students take up their places.
Obviously the Department will need to go through their process of tendering, but the deadline for the work to be competed is 1 September.
The former school – where Mother Teresa studied English – is steeped in history.
The main building was formally known as Rathfarnham House and was built in 1725 by William Palliser. In 1821 Archbishop Murray of Dublin purchased the property for the Irish Branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From 1823 to 1999 it was operated as a boarding school.