Thousands sign petition in one week

Thousands sign petition in one week

11 October 2017

THE Castlewellan woman behind a popular petition to save Ardnabannon Outdoor Education Centre has urged education officials to heed the thousands objecting to its closure.

Lisa Wells said 7,600 people, who have so far signed the petition, had sent a clear message of support for the centre to the Education Authority.

She said more and more were going online to express their support every day, and urged others to consider signing the petition as a mark of solidarity for the service and its staff.

Lisa said she was baffled by the Education Authority’s decision to close Ardnabannon despite the overwhelming support shown for it during a recent consultation exercise in which almost 90 per cent of respondents disagreed with the recommendation for closure.

Dismissing the public consultation as “some kind of PR exercise”, she said the fact that officials had “not paid heed” to responses could not be ignored.

“There was a big response to the public consultation, staff were blown away by the support and this decision to close regardless seems to fly in the face of what the people want,” she said.

“They have disregarded public opinion. To my mind the decision was made and the consultation was some kind of PR exercise.

“More and more people are expressing their disgust every day. While it is unclear what will make officials change their minds, it is very clear that they have not paid heed to their own public consultation. 

“It is vital to continue to show that the public are behind the staff and the service. I do not think this can be ignored.”

Lisa said she did not believe a price could be put on the centre, which her children have regularly enjoyed, while their dad, and many others, have benefited from employment at Ardnabannon.

“We should cherish the experiences Ardnabannon Outdoor Education Centre has provided young people,” she said.

“My children had such a great time. The best thing for them was the sense of adventure. The challenges really help to build their confidence.”

Ms Wells said that while they enjoyed the convenience of such an excellent local facility, she was also concerned about the impact on children who endured difficult circumstances and travelled, for example, on cross-community projects.

“What are the children from deprived communities going to have left?” she said. “For some of these children it is their only opportunity for a summer holiday. This is a game changer for them.”