Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle as ucht an deis seo a thabhairt dom an t-ábhar seo a ardú sa Dáil anocht. O'Carolan college in Nobber is one of the few entirely rural second level schools in Leinster. It is situated in the beautiful, but small, village of Nobber and is named after the famous man of music, Turlough O'Carolan. The school having grown from relatively small beginnings is housed in a building provisionally designed for 250 students. Under the great leadership of its current principal, Brian Goggins, the school has grown from 179 pupils in 2002 to approximately 415 today. This remarkable increase is much greater than the rate of growth of population of County Meath. It is testament to the education that is provided by O'Carolan college and the work of all the teachers who have worked very hard in O'Carolan college and in the community over the years.
O'Carolan college in Nobber is situated in the heart of north Meath. Its catchment comes from parishes in County Meath such as Dromconrath, Nobber, Kilmainhamwood, Kingscourt in County Cavan, Kilbeg, Moynalty, Lobinstown, Kilberry and Rathkenny among others. It is an anchor for the entire north Meath community. The school continues to expand, but expects pupil numbers to stabilise at approximately 550 pupils in 2010, which is more than double the number of students the school was originally designed to cope with. There are eight prefabs and four more are expected next year. Its corridors and current entrances and exits are very small and not suited to the number of pupils using them.
Pupils, parents and teachers of O'Carolan college are therefore anxious that the school get the major building works it needs. I am deeply committed to helping them in any way I can to move this building project forward. It is badly needed. In addition with the population stabilising, which means that the school population will stabilise in the next few years, I do not expect to be coming back — nor does the school expect to be coming back — looking for more after that. When we think of rapidly developing areas, we do not tend to think of rural north Meath and a unique second level school such as O'Carolan college. However, the college is rapidly developing, as is the area.
The college is providing a great education, but needs a building commensurate with that. The school motto is "Saothar agus Sonas" which means work and happiness or work and prosperity. If the Minister does some of the saothar there will certainly be considerable sonas in O'Carolan college and throughout north Meath. I am urging the Minister to progress this building project as soon as he can.