GARC have released a statement regarding the St Gemma's site issued on 5 December 2014
Since Sinn Fein Education Minister
John O'Dowd decided to close St Gemma's against the wishes of parents, pupils,
staff and the wider community there has been intense interest in how the school
site could be best utilised.
This is a prime site, unique in terms of location
and size, with a space that could and should be put to best use for the utmost
benefit of the surrounding communities of Ardoyne and the Bone. The majority of
local opinion would seem to suggest a much needed sporting, health and leisure
facility for North Belfast nationalist communities would be most appropriate.
There is at present a proposal backed by Sinn Fein that would see the site
effectively come under the ownership of director-led private limited companies,
that were formerly community accountable groups, they deem acceptable. This
will see the school used to house these groups, some of whom exist in name only
for funding purposes. This proposal is at an advanced stage without transparency
or any proper consultation with residents.
An online only consultation on
behalf of a limited company MONTHS AFTER proposals have been submitted to the
Diocese of Down and Connor cannot be treated as inclusive, and is a malicious
attempt to legitimise their agenda.
Since it's closure the school has also been
used as a Covert Surveillance Station by MI5 and the PSNI. A fortnight ago
residents of Rosehead and the Bone observed numerous balaclava wearing British
soldiers removing a number of cameras looking into Ardoyne and the Bone from
both within the school and from the roof of various buildings on site. While
doing so, the British Army were protected by up to twenty armoured PSNI jeeps
and scores of PSNI officers for a number of hours.
The question needs to be
asked of local clergy and political parties were they aware of these covert
operations and did they approve. GARC are opposed to the proposed takeover of
the St Gemma's site and demand that any plans are stopped until there is a
full, independent, public consultation with local residents and we state
clearly that any development of the site should be subject to the wishes of