By Shaun Keenan
SOUTHERN Regional College (SRC) have been urged to turn their Kilkeel campus into a full-time maritime college after it was suggested that the college were considering closing the site permanently.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Independent councillor, Henry Reilly said the future of the fishing was in doubt if an educational hub was not established.
“The fishing representatives and ordinary fishermen are adamant that, (that) facility should be used for the creation of a maritime college,” said Cllr Reilly.
“There’s two maritime colleges in the Republic of Ireland and five in Great Britain.
“There’s none in Northern Ireland and I would like the council to very strongly support the fishing representatives in asking SRC convert that into a maritime college.
“One of the problems that we are facing now is getting a fishing crew to man the fishing vessels.
“Unless people are sure that they’re going to have a long term career in fishing and get adequate training, then the future of the fishing industry is not assured.”
Sinn Fein councillor Willie Clarke, backed the proposal saying “it would be a sensible approach”.
He added: “I would be more than happy to seconded this proposal. I think it would make sense to have a maritime college in Kilkeel. Particularly looking at future renewable technologies and I think it would be very sensible to take this approach.”
Meanwhile, SRC said they had made the proposal to close the premises because “it no longer fit with the College’s business needs in the delivery of its further and higher education programmes and training”.
A SRC spokesperson said: “This decision aligns with the College, DfE and NI Asset Management Strategies to modernise and consolidate provision.
“Following closure, the College will seek to dispose of the property through the established Public Sector Disposal (D1) Process offering other public sector organisations the opportunity to purchase the surplus asset in the first instance.
“The College will continue to deliver courses in Kilkeel to service the needs of the Kilkeel public and business community using several options that include Kilkeel Development Association premises (Nautilus Centre), Kilkeel Library and other community-based resources.
“The College continues to meet with local industry stakeholders in order to ascertain and meet their specific skills needs.
“Before a final decision is taken, SRC is consulting with the local community and stakeholders on this proposal. The consultation will last for a period of 12 weeks closing on September 28, 2021.
“Alternatively, paper copies of the consultation document and response form are available and may be obtained free of charge from the SRC Equality Unit by calling 0300 123 1223.”