Minister Norma Foley with Sr Kathleen O’Connor and Sr Anne Devine, Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary.

‘I see heart in life and soul of St Mary’s’

The nuns from the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary who founded St Mary’s more than 70 years ago were praised for their “vision” by Minister for Education Norma Foley when she visited the site of the school’s new base on Thursday.

Sr Kathleen O’Connor and Sr Anne Devine attended the sod-turning ceremony, and in her speech before it, Minister Foley thanked them for their order’s ground-breaking contribution in the field of special education.

“Seventy years ago we needed women, people of vision. We needed people who recognised inclusion and the importance of inclusion in society. When others failed to recognise it, they recognised it.

“I am very honoured that both of you are here today to see the unfolding and evolving story that is St Mary’s. You know it’s a privilege to follow in the footsteps of women like you, who invested and continue to invest in education.

“When it was neither favourable or profitable to do so, you went out on a limb to do something that others weren’t prepared to do. Today we walk in your footsteps.

“We speak every single day of inclusion and importance of a place for everyone in society and that everyone gets an opportunity to realise their ambitions, talents and abilities.

We are all the better informed and all the better equipped because of the first steps that you took 70 years ago. I am honoured to be in your presence.”

Minister Foley also said that she was deeply touched by the rapport that the staff at St Mary’s have with their students.

“I see the heart in the life and soul of St Mary’s. The pride in the staff as they introduce the students. The significant investment they have in them. I really want to thank the staff. You are led superbly by Anne-Maire, but it is a gift to her, I’m sure, that she can rely on staff that are so invested in the students.

“Today we are here to mark this wonderful building that is flying up behind us, and I really want to acknowledge the speed at which it is moving.

The building is so important. It’s so important that students have the facilities they need, that are of the 21st century, but what is much more important is the heart and soul that prevails within the building.

“I know that’s there in abundance because of the staff and because of what you do so seamlessly, so quietly, but so diligently every single day.”