A LOCAL primary school has hosted an innovative hustings event, in a bid to have election candidates help resolve its on-going parking debacle.
Sion Mills Primary School this week invited candidates Kieran McGuire and Michaela Boyle of Sinn Féin, Anne Murray from the Alliance Party, Derek Hussey of the UUP, Andy Patton, independent and Cara Hunter from the SDLP to hear about the persisting parking crisis which is ostensibly putting children’s lives in danger.
Referring to the daily parking issue as a “ticking time bomb”, primary seven teacher, Dorothy McGinley chaired proceedings which saw the student council, the schools Nature Ninja committee, and the P7 class enact a presentation to explain the extent of the school’s plight.
“Our aim is to make this a happy and safe place for everyone,” one pupil declared.
The nub of the problem, pupils explained, is that the school does not have a safe parking or drop off/pick up area outside the school gates.
Following a week-long research process which saw the children observe the errant parking and gather evidence, namely photographs, the results were, according to pupils, “unbelievable.”
The evidence showed that cars are routinely parked in the middle of the road and on corners during drop off and pick up times, and in some cases cars were abandoned on either side of the school gates.
“At times we witnessed chaos,” one pupil explained.
Another added, “It’s extremely dangerous and extremely worrying.”
It was further explained to candidates that there are no double yellow lines outside the school to prevent poor parking, nor is there any pedestrian crossing for the children making their way to school.
Moreover, when the student council wrote to DfI Roads requesting double yellow lines, as yet they have received no response.
The students appealed collectively to the six candidates asking what they would do to help their campaign if elected to council. They stated, “Please, please, please help our campaign.”
Ms McGinley added, “We will ask our families to vote for the candidate we think can help us the most.”
Candidates were subsequently given five minutes each to explain how they would individually advance the pupils’ campaign.
The SDLP’s Cara Hunter spoke first, saying that she would initiate a number of approaches including florescent armbands, speed bumps and a school crossing.
Similarly, Sinn Féin’s Michaela Boyle said, “All children should have safe access to their school.”
She added, “Whatever actions come out of today, I promise I will not break any commitment that I give to you today.” She referred to “inconsiderate driving” and reiterated the need for drivers to recognise the danger they pose to children going to school.
The Alliance Party’s Anne Murray echoed earlier comments about the need for double yellow lines and a pedestrian crossing and said she would, “find out why this hasn’t been made a priority.”
Sinn Féin’s Kieran McGuire suggested a site meeting with the relevant bodies to ascertain what could be done to alleviate the parking chaos whereas independent candidate, Andy Patton said the onus rested with the parents taking their children to school. “We cannot fix it, your parents have to fix it,” he said.
Lastly, UUP councillor, Derek Hussey said he would call DfI Roads to see why the student council had so far been ignored. He also suggested the school liaises with the Policing Safety Community Partnership. “Get to know them and get them to help,” he advised.
All told, all candidates pledged to help the school in whatever way they could.
Ms McGinley concluded, “One of the children said to me today, it’s like a ticking time bomb.”