Seamus Tunney, Tracey Meade, Emma Casey, Aisling Ryan, Bishop Connell, Brian Gaffney, Minister Norma Foley, Eabha Wallace, John McHale, (principal) Minister Peter Burke, Aidan Farrell, Samantha Flynn and Padraig Leonard – members of the board of management, parents council, staff and students at the sod turning ceremony for the new St Finian’s College buildings on Friday.

Sod turning on new site ‘important landmark’ in history of St Finian’s

The turning of the sod on the new multi-million euro renovation and expansion of St Finian’s College is the start of a new chapter in the school’s illustrious 222 year history, says principal John McHale.

Speaking in the school before Minister of Education Norma Foley joined head boy Brian Gaffney and head girl Eabha Wallace to turn the ceremonial sod, Mr McHale said the government decision to fund the expansion of the school is an “important landmark”.

“The history of our college is indeed a long history, 222 years of continuous educational development, and I’m sure many decades can boast turning points – however, in terms of major transformation arguably four significant years stand out: 1802, when St Finian’s College was first established in Navan, County Meath; 1908 when the college moved to Mullingar and this existing building was completed; 2003 when the school became co-educational and girls were enrolled for the first time; and finally 2023, when Project Nore (a major school building project funded by the National Development Finance Agency) was sanctioned and worked commenced in 2023.”

Mr McHale thanked the Diocese of Meath for its “commitment, courage and vision which has made St Finian’s College the excellent school it is”. He also acknowledged the work of his predecessor as principal, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, Paul Connell.

“His association with St Finian’s has been a lifetime’s commitment and the college developed significantly under his leadership, moving from an all boys boarding and day school of 230 pupils into a modern co-educational facility with 850 students.

“His contribution to this current building project has been enormous. Not only did he deliver for St Finian’s, it could be argued that through his well-honed skills of advocacy, he delivered Project Nore.”

Mr McHale, who also acknowledged the contribution of his colleagues, the board of management, the parents council and student community for their contributions to school life, praised Minister Foley for her “very obvious dedication and commitment to progress”.

“Minister Foley’s record as a resolute advocate for education is impression, as she worked determinedly to improve and advance the educational opportunities for students across the country.”

In her speech, Minister Foley paid tribute to the staff and parents for their proactive approach in creating the best possible learning environment for students. She also added that prior to her visit, she had done some research on the school.

“In sport alone I was really blown away to read that there are 29 different team events being provided here for students, quite phenomenal opportunities when it comes to sport, wonderful opportunities when it comes to music, wonderful opportunities when it comes to debating. I also know you have been hugely successful when it comes to the BT Young Scientist Competition, which you have won twice. Many schools would give everything to win once, but to win twice is quite an achievement.

“There is a whole richness of opportunity that you provide to students here, aside from the excellence in teaching and learning that is happening every single day in the classroom. That’s very much down to the good will, cooperation and the ambition of the staff.”