THERE was great excitement in Lisnaskea last Friday as St. Kevin’s College opened a new £1.3 million block of classrooms and a Sixth Form centre.

The building was erected quickly following the first sod being cut for the new building last October.

Celebrations got off to a start outside the new building as Fr. John Chester blessed the building with Holy Water.

Head Boy Niall McCaffrey, and Head Girl Aoife Wray, were tasked with cutting the ribbon for the new school.

Guests were invited to walk around the new school building where they marvelled at the seven new classrooms and the state-of-the-art Sixth Form centre – furnished with a kitchenette and a suite of laptops.

The Chair of the Board of Governors, Councillor Thomas O’Reilly, welcomed guests and said: “It is a momentous occasion to get to this point. There have been so many people that have contributed to making sure that this became a reality, in a relatively short time, and I want to thank the whole team.”

Councillor O’Reilly expressed his gratitude toward designers, contractors and the Education Authority for providing the finances to build this new block.

He also called on the politicians assembled to help ensure the future of St. Kevin’s College and said: “We all need to do a little bit more to make sure the next phase of the college runs just as smoothly.”

Principal Garry Kelly told invited guests about the progress to get to this point.

He spoke on how the amalgamation of St. Eugene's College and St. Comhghall's College put pressure on buildings and facilities, adding: "We were badly in need of this new building.”

Mr. Kelly praised the building and the work completed by contractors, JDC Building Works, and officials from the Education Authority for their work in bringing the building to fruition.

Looking to the future, Mr. Kelly alluded to a new £5 million build for the college that is seeking planning permission.

Fr. Jimmy McPhillips welcomed the new building on behalf of Bishop Larry Duffy.

As a former student of the school, Fr. McPhillips spoke on what he felt was the importance of Catholic-maintained education, following comments from the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, which suggested that segregated education should be abolished.

He said: “I know the important roles all our schools are playing here in the North in bringing together that shared future; all of our schools in their own unique way are promoting reconciliation.

“We see proactive peace and reconciliation through participation in shared education where an understanding and respect for the culture of others is being taught.”

First Minister Arlene Foster also attended the opening, and said: “I visited St. Kevin’s College in September. I heard of the challenges the school had to face regarding their facilities, and the increasing student numbers.

“I am astounded at what St. Kevin’s has achieved in such a short space of time. The building is fabulous and it was a pleasure to attend to the opening.

"I wish the staff and students best wishes for the future, as I am sure there is a lot of excitement to use the new facilities.”

Also attending was Fermanagh South Tyrone MLA Michelle Gildernew, who said: “I was here when students were at one point on top of one another and they have come through a lot, in terms of a lack of space, so it is a huge honour to be here for the opening of this building today.

"It is great to be here to celebrate something instead of being lobbied.”

Mrs. Gildernew was joined on her visit by Aine Murphy, a former student of St. Kevin’s College, who will be contesting next year’s Assembly election for Sinn Féin.