Saturday, 1 September 2012

O'Dowd expresses shock at blaze at Omagh school

Education Minister John O'Dowd has spoken out following a major fire at a school in Omagh.

During a visit to the scene, the Minister viewed the extensive damage caused to Arvalee School and Resource Centre in the town by last night's fire.

After speaking with the Principal of the school and the Chair of the Western Education and Library Board, Mr O'Dowd said: "The fire at Arvalee School and Resource Centre will have a devastating impact on the whole school community. The school caters for some of the most vulnerable children in our society and this fire will cause great distress just as the pupils are preparing to return for a new academic year. However, the impact will go further; this also affects the parents, staff and the wider community in Omagh.

"I have spoken with the Principal of the school and relayed my shock and sympathy at the events of last night and assured him that my Department stands ready to assist the Western Education and Library Board and the school in the coming days.

"I have been disturbed by the fact that this fire is currently being treated as suspicious. Whilst I struggle to comprehend who might wish to do this to a special school, I would ask that if anyone has information on the blaze, they take it to the PSNI.

"In the mean time, the Western Education and Library Board will be putting in place alternative arrangements for the children due to return to school next week. The aim will be to ensure that arrangements are made as quickly as possible, and that any distress to the children involved is kept to an absolute minimum. Parents of pupils at the school will be alerted once alternative arrangements are agreed.

"I had already announced a new build for Arvalee School and Resource Centre as an early development on the Lisanelly site. I will want to explore with my officials and other stakeholders how we can advance the timetable for that given last night's events.

"Finally, I would like to thank the emergency services for the professional way they dealt with the incident and for their efforts to contain the fire."

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