Swimming to face the axe

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THE school’s swimming programme was under threat of being axed in March 1986 with the Education Board considering cuts to keep within its budget.

The SELB met in its Armagh headquarters and among papers being tabled was a proposal that the swimming programme should be cut out and in the absence of unionist opposition it was likely to be ratified.

If the axe was to fall on the school swimming programme it was to be a bitter blow to the local council as it had consistently fought previous proposals to bring down the shutters on the popular programme.

But the blow would have been hardest of all for unionist councillors who had been at the forefront of past campaigns to keep the programme on the budget.

On principle they would have been bitterly opposed to any such cut.

Their dilemma, however, was that in line with party policy they were abstaining from the various public bodies including the SELB.

Down the years the school swimming programme had often been challenged and the number of weeks kids were to the pools under the auspices of their respective schools had been reduced from 32 to 16.

This meant that, at the time, they were allowed eight weeks in the autumn and eight weeks in the summer term which was considered a reasonable compromise.

But had unionists been in chamber they would have been strongly fighting against the new proposal and the 11 representatives from the various councils would have provided a forceful voting bloc.

Alderman Mary Simpson said: “We have fought this issue many times in the past and we would be very upset were it cut.

“We will have to meet and see what approach we’ll take to the matter.

“I feel very strongly that children should get the chance to learn to swim, for it’s something we can’t leave to parents alone.

“We’ve always fought very hard on the issue.

“But at the same time we have very good reasons for our policy on board meetings in light of the Anglo-Irish agreement,” she concluded.