O’Dowd in Twitter row over Moira Primary School budget

John O'Dowd MLA. INLM4710-629con
John O'Dowd MLA. INLM4710-629con

A local primary school has had its financial situation singled out in the argument between the Education Minister and a journalist.

Moira Primary School is attended by the son of Irish News journalist William Scholes, who wrote an opinion piece about the Common Funding Formula (CFF) on October 21. In it he used his personal experience of the school his son Isaac attends, which stands to lose £17,000.

His article prompted a response from Education Minister John O’Dowd on Twitter which read, ‘Is it appropriate for the Irish News to allow 1 of its journalists a news article on his personal circumstances without question/ balance?’

He also sent a letter to the Irish News which was published on October 25. In the same issue the paper reported on a petition which had secured the signatures of more than 7,000 people who had reservations about Mr O’Dowd’s proposal and another opinion piece by journalist Scholes.

This prompted more tweets from Mr O’Dowd who said, ‘The Irish News editorial position on tackling social deprivation is a disgrace and driven by the perceived family needs of one of its staff.’ Mr O’Dowd also wrote another letter to the school singling out Moira Primary School for criticism.

In it he said: “I would not normally comment publicly on individual schools in this manner, but I believe your paper has left me no choice.

“Mr Scholes asked me how will his school cope with a £17,000 drop in income. At the end of the 2012/2013 financial year, the school had a cumulative delegated budget surplus of £130,264. This surplus is the money unspent by the control of the school itself. When Mr Scholes asked the question how will his school cope, perhaps the answer rests in the £130,264 surplus.”

Principal Carol Mairs said: “The schools has a three-year financial plan which has been approved by the SELB. This shows an annual reduction of the surplus and at the end of year three the surplus is projected to be less than one per cent.”