FERMANAGH and Omagh District Councillors have questioned why the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) and the Education Authority (EA) didn’t engage with the local community in Brollagh when they were asked to further develop proposals for a cross-Border solution for St. Mary’s High School two years ago.

The CCMS is currently carrying out a consultation on proposals to close the post-primary school next year.

This consultation period is due to end on November 20.

Local councillors, who are all opposed to the closure plans, believe that consideration needs to be given to a cross-Border solution to ensure that the school remains open.

At the monthly meeting of the local authority in Omagh on Tuesday night, Erne West Councillor, Brendan Gallagher, questioned why the CCMS and the EA did not engage with the local community in Brollagh in 2015, after being asked to do so by the Department of Education.

A letter received by the Council last month outlined how, in July 2014, former Education Minister John O’Dowd had commissioned the CCMS and the former Western Education and Library Board (now the Education Authority) to develop a cross-Border proposal for education provision in the Brollagh area.

After this proposal was submitted in April 2015 and analysed by the Department officials, the CCMS and EA were asked to further develop the proposal and engage with the local community.

The letter stated that, in November 2015, CCMS responded to concerns from the Department and confirmed that they had concerns about the “cost-effectiveness, sustainability and quality of education” under the proposed agreement.

It stated: “After analysing the CCMS findings, Departmental officials agreed that a cross-Border approach would not meet required educational quality thresholds, nor would such an approach be cost-effective.”

Speaking on Tuesday night, Mr. Gallagher proposed that the Council write another letter to the Department of Education requesting a copy of whatever report was prepared in connection with the further development of the cross-Border pilot project during 2015.

Mr. Gallagher said that there appeared to be a "serious change in attitude” towards the cross-Border solution by the Department following receipt of this report.

The Erne West councillor told the meeting that, in April 2015, the CCMS and EA had been asked to engage with the local community, but he added: “At no stage did this engagement take place.”

Mr. Gallagher also said that, in its letter, the Department of Education stated that correspondence issued in October 2016 had been copied to the Principal and Chair of Board of Governors at St. Mary’s.

However, the Erne West Councillor claimed that this letter had never been received.

Seconding the SDLP representative’s proposal, independent Councillor Bernice Swift said that the Department of Education’s response raised “more questions than answers”.

Describing herself as “outraged” that the people of the area were being ignored, the Councillor said that “somebody or somebodies” had decided to pour cold water on the cross-border solution, leaving parents, pupils and staff “very unsure”.

Ms. Swift said there was “unanimous support” in the Council for retaining post-primary education in Brollagh.

Sinn Féin Councillor, Anthony Feely, a past pupil of the school, said he “couldn’t agree more” with the comments from the other members.

“It’s a big worry down there,” he added.