I would like to associate myself with the welcome extended by Mrs Brenda Murphy, the Principal, to all of you who have come here today for the blessing and official opening of College Farm Nursery School.

College Farm Nursery School opened its doors on 4 January, last, to some fifty 3-4 year old pupils. I am told that the pupils enjoy very much the care being given to them by the Principal, Mrs Murphy and by Mrs Greene who are assisted by Mrs Martin and Mrs Kennedy. Catering is looked after by Mrs Barton while Mr Gribben is the general caretaker.

We are very grateful to the Peace and Reconciliation Fund of the European Union for making all of this possible and for the management offered by CCMS. I welcome here also the representatives from DENI and from the Southern Education and Library Board.

I think the community of Armagh is very fortunate to have such a beautiful nursery. Nowadays the importance of nursery education is being understood and emphasised more and more and the prayer of the blessing is that these children will appreciate it and derive great value from their attendance here.

Mr Jim Maxwell, the Chairman, will speak in more detail about funding for College Farm Nursery School. Armagh has been successful in obtaining agreement for an alternative model of nursery provision, that is, alternative to the existing pattern of separate provision for the maintained and controlled sectors. Inevitably as nursery education continues to develop, and I am sure it will develop, there will be pressure on all partners to respond in a proactive and flexible manner to this new situation.

I have read the information for parents prepared by the staff of this school and I must say that it is very impressive. The photographs tell us that learning is fun at College Farm Nursery School as we see Rachael, Gráinne and Niamh making circles together, Gary enjoying the Lego house, Adam experimenting with markers and Mrs Greene’s class playing with blocks and dough and painting the walls with water. It is all very exciting. The children eat what they bake for their snack in the weekly cookery session. They sing together, they make music, they learn new songs. They paint, they draw, they share a story book every day in the school. There is also a lending library from which they can borrow books.

I simply want to congratulate and thank everyone associated with the provision of this marvellous new facility for the nursery pupils of Armagh. In it, I hope, the children will develop a great respect for each other, a great love of learning and a great desire to develop all their talents. When they get all of that confidence they will be able to relate to each other in a healthy, positive and good way.

So my prayers and my blessings are with everyone involved in College Farm Nursery School. I trust that the understanding and skills and exchanges which these young people have here will help them to be peaceful citizens, at peace with the world, with their neighbours, with themselves and with their God. I hope that it will enable them to play their part in the reconciliation of our divided community.