When Tony O’Riordan SJ, Parish Priest of Moyross in Co Limerick, went public about the serious impact the withdrawal of a teaching post would have on children in the local primary school he did not expect the warm and generous response he received most particularly from the parishioners of the Church of the Assumption in Dalkey.
On reading about the plight of the school in one of the most deprived areas of Ireland, the local Dalkey Parish Council decided to invite Tony and school principal Tiernan O’Neill up to Dublin to speak to parishioners about the school children, their needs and the work being done there. A special collection for the school then took place after the mass.
Tiernan O’Neill told the congregation that as he drove up from Limerick he thought of his wife who was soon to give birth to their first child. He said he had great hopes for the child and knew he would be able to give it the very best he could. He also thought about the children in Moyross and contrasted their life with what he knew would be the path for his child. For the children in Moyross, educational disadvantage because of poverty, addiction, crime and many other factor beyond their control, is the norm.
He told the story of one eight year old who boy who was so disturbed and out of control that he became violent and ended up punching his mother and breaking her jaw. The state’s response was to say he needed to be put away in special facilities which would cost over €80,000 annually. The school however had a woodwork programme involving the building of rowing boats and Tiernan knew the young boy would really benefit from this special subject. He held out and the boy started on the project. His behaviour was transformed and he became a model student and when educationally assessed was found to be now in the top two percentile of kids in the country.
But the main point of the story was that the school needed €12,000 a year to run this special programme and had to struggle to raise the funds for it from private donations yet the state was prepared to pay six times that to place the young boy somewhere he didn’t need to be.
Tony O’Riordan said he was really moved at the sense of community in the truly Christian sense of the word, shown by the people of Dalkey to the people of Moyross. He said it was a living out of the gospel values that were often only paid lip service. He thanked them for their support in wanting to hear from the people of Moyross and for their generosity in contributing practically to help the school and the children break the cycle of poverty and educational disadvantage.