In 1997 South Dublin Co Council published a document “Tallaght a living town”. This was the opening sentence, “Truly the pilgrim people who came to Tallaght were a wise and living people .We were indeed lucky to have them.” The Holy Faith Sisters were part of that pilgrimage. Now Pilgrimage is undertaken for expiation for the past or supplication for the future. I would not dare to attribute these motives to the decision of these Sisters to come to Tallaght, but it was leap in the dark for them and for so many others who got involved in these early years of TCS.
It is almost impossible to imagine the level of controversy that erupted between 1970 (the date of the publication of the document on Community schools) and the start of the school in 1972 here are some samples. “An act of political lunacy” “A gigantic act of religious sectarianism “Pagan schools” I love this final one from Irish Times July 1971 “The grand design of the community schools, the national blueprint, is now as dead as a pork chop”. This was at national level, but there was more controversy at local level and I am given to understand that a number of protest meetings were held in Tallaght and there were protests on the streets. Some of these concerned the assimilation of the local Vocational school into the new structures. This atmosphere continued for quite a few years after the school opened.
So it took an act of considerable courage to decide to become involved not just at management level but at the classroom level. I would love to know the feelings of these Sisters who came here during those early years . Whatever their private feelings and even misgivings, I must go on record to acknowledge their total support to me and to the school. I had this in my dealings with the Board of Management where I got this support through many difficult days and occasions of great concern. In this I want to recognise in particular the support of Sister Euphrasia over some 150 plus board meetings and innumerable Interview boards. To the sisters who joined the staff I say a heartfelt “Thank you”. You can be proud of the work that you did for all of us in TCS. In the context of the very painful revelations of recent times be assured that your contribution to this school was true to your vocation as religious. Be proud of it.
Some 16 years ago I was involved in workshops in Lovedale College which is part of Forthare University in Ciskei in South Africa. Since 1841 it has been a training college for teachers. On the entrance to the college there is a plaque which has the following verse.
From out these storied years a light
Doth shine upon us in this age
And hands that long have lost their might
Have passed to us our heritage.
That is my tribute to your work here in this school I wish every blessing on the new structure. You have been handed on a proud heritage