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Minister for Education, Norma Foley, TD, turns the sod for the construction of a new school building for Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí

Kerry Education and Training Board (Kerry ETB) and Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí were delighted to welcome the Minister for Education, Norma Foley, TD, to turn the sod for the construction of a new school building for Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí on May 14th, 2021. The new 75,000 sq. ft. building with a capacity to cater for 600 students will enable the Gaelcholáiste to accommodate its expanding student population which has necessitated a second campus since 2016.

Funding of approximately €16m has been allocated for this project under Project Ireland 2040.

The Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí Campas Nua will be built on a 6.5-acre site at Clonmore in Tralee, which was provided by Kerry County Council.

Minister for Education Norma Foley TD said: “I welcome the opportunity to attend this socially distanced turning of the sod on this ambitious new school project for Gaelcholaiste Chiarrai. The new building represents a significant investment of approximately €16 million and will include 22 general classrooms, 4 science labs, a Library and specialist rooms for Art, Technical Graphics, Materials Technology Wood, Music, Home Economics and ICT.

“The new 75,000 sq.ft building will have a capacity to cater for 600 students, while the campus will also include a Sports Hall, Fitness Suite, hard-court play areas and further developments to include a Hurling Wall and a training pitch. I would like to commend Kerry ETB and Kerry County Council for their tireless commitment and endeavour to this project and for ensuring that this fine institution will continue to enrich, empower and inspire Kerry students through the Irish language, for many years to come.”

Ann O’Dwyer, Director of Schools, Youth and Music at Kerry ETB stated, “This is a very exciting time for all members of the Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí school community. This new state of the art building with the capacity to cater for 600 students will add greatly to the excellent standard of teaching and learning that currently exists and will afford students a broader curriculum and further educational opportunities.”


Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí has experienced substantial growth in its enrolment over the past number of years. This growth is reflective of the increased interest in Gaeloideachas nationally at both primary and post-primary level with students and parents recognising the huge benefits All-Irish-medium education has to student attainment and progression. While most students attending Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí come from the Gaelscoileanna in Tralee, Castleisland, Listowel and Killarney, the past number of years has seen the number of students enrolling from English-medium primary schools increase to almost 40% of the overall enrolment. The new building and campus, when opened, will present further opportunity for the school to cater for this growing demand. 

Ruairí Ó Cinnéide, príomhoide, Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí said,At present there are students from up to 40 different primary schools attending Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí. It is very important to us that students from all primary schools realise that Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí is a viable option for them for their second level education. Students, and their parents, are sometimes anxious about making the transition into an All-Irish learning environment as they often underestimate their own competency in spoken and written Irish, however, we would always recommend that they contact us to discuss this as the vast majority of students are well capable of making the transition.”

“The new school building comprises of 22 general classrooms as well as specialist classrooms for Art, Engineering, Technology, Wood Technology, Home Economics, Music, Science and Computer Science. Other onsite facilities include a canteen area, student recreational areas, onsite sports hall, fitness suite, and hard surface play areas as well as an astro-turf pitch and hurling wall which are to be developed shortly after the main building opens.”

Conall Ó Cruadhlaoich, príomhoide tánaisteach at Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí outlines the advantages that the new building will bring,Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí’s school community and the wider Pobal Gaeilge in Tralee and the surrounding areas have been waiting patiently for this hugely important development for a number of years. Undoubtedly the scale and scope of the new facility will provide us with a wider range of resources to allow our learners and teachers increased opportunities to enhance the existing excellent standards of education provided at Gaelcholaiste Chiarraí. Modern society demands people that are tech savvy, can think critically and solve problems. The new building will reflect those values, offering state of the art modern technology, wider subject choice, and the freedom of space to think, engage, grow and prosper in.

“Over the years, students have achieved notable success in the areas of music and drama, BT Young Scientist and Technology competition, Entrepreneur and enterprise programmes as well as various sporting success. There exists a strong tradition of participation and achievement in a broad range of activities and competitions.  The students are really looking forward to the opening of the new building.”

Sinéad Ní Mhurchú, a Leaving Cert student at Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí who is also a member of the students’ council stated,We have seen the plans and it looks spectacular. The huge hall with a gym overlooking, the storey and a half high library, the specialist rooms and all the space! My friends and I will unfortunately not get to experience it but for all the incoming students it will be so exciting and create so much opportunity for lunchtime clubs and sporting groups. The ‘Slí na Sláinte’ 1km walking loop meandering around the school grounds is such great idea for people to get fresh air and have a little time off!”

The school was founded in 1989 following a campaign by parents of students attending Gaelscoil Mhic Easmainn and has played a significant role in the advancement of Gaeilge in the community in Tralee. The new campus will allow the school to continue to make a valuable contribution to this growth. As Tralee town has now been designated as a Baile Seirbhíse Gaeltachta (Gaeltacht Service Town) for the Kerry Gaeltacht areas, the people of the town will have a considerable role in providing public services, recreational, social and commercial facilities for those Gaeltacht areas.

As language is one of the most important parts of any culture, Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí’s new school campus will play a pivotal role in maintaining and enhancing the very strong traditions and Cultúr Gaelach that already exist in Tralee town and the surrounding areas.

Kerry Education and Training Board Chief Executive, Mr Colm McEvoy has welcomed the decision to allow the vital project to proceed as it will enable Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí to cater for increasing enrolments when completed. “I am delighted that the Department of Education have affirmed the critical importance of delivering this post-primary educational facility. The new school building will enable the Management of the school to cater for the increasing demands to access post primary education through medium of Irish, in Tralee and the surrounding area. The new school building when complete will provide a modern, state of art teaching and learning environment for students and staff. We are very appreciative of the support we have received form the Local Community and Kerry Co. Co. in advancing this project. We all look forward to the completion of the new school building.

The advancement of the project will be a significant boost for students enrolled in the four gaelscoileanna and English speaking national schools in Tralee and the wider North Kerry area who wish to purse their secondary education through Irish. The new building will feature 25 general classrooms, specialist classrooms, a library, multimedia provision, canteen and dining areas, a sports hall and the cultúrlann performance area.”

Chairperson of Kerry Education and Training Board, Cllr. Jim Finucane in welcoming the commencement of the formal construction phase of the building stated: The commencement of the construction of the new Gaelcholáiste Chiarraí school building is very welcome development for Tralee and the wider area. This new building project is being managed by the ETB Head Office buildings team and is being delivered under the devolved projects funding model. The planning and preparation for this project have been ongoing for many years and I am delighted that all of that work has come to fruition.  The provision of the site by Kerry Co. Co. for the new school was a significant milestone for this project coupled with excellent work of the ETB Management and the design team in progressing the project thought the various design and approval stages with the Department in recent years.  As with any project of this nature it will give a significant boost to the local Tralee economy during and beyond the construction phase.”

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