A war of words has broken out between Western Isles MP Angus Brendan MacNeil and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar over the immediate future of Eoligarry school in northern Barra and the job of the school’s cook.

The MP has claimed:

  • Council treatment of the cook was ‘shoddy and awful’
  • This is fast turning into a farce, the Comhairle would be wise to withdraw the threat to Eoligarry canteen.
  • A dinner lady with nearly 30 years service has been threatened with losing her job

The Council rejects this.  They say:

“The cost of upgrading Eoligarry School ventilation system is estimated at approximately £5,100.

“In these circumstances and given that it is proposed to close the school when Castlebay School has been refurbished, it has been decided to transfer the cooking of school meals to Castlebay School. 

“This is consistent with practice in other school settings.  All schools in the Western Isles have the same menu from August 2019 and children in Eoligarry will get the same meals as other schools.  Pupils who wish to or currently have packed lunches will still be able to do so.

“The Comhairle policy is to avoid redundancy of staff where possible.  On this basis, consistent with Comhairle policy, staff affected have been provided with redeployment opportunities.  Eoligarry School currently has 19 pupils.

“On this basis it is unreasonable to describe this action as “shoddy and awful treatment”.

Earlier, following a meeting on Wednesday  evening with parents of pupils from Eoligarry, MP Angus MacNeil expressed consternation at the issue surrounding the ventilation at Eoligarry School canteen.  “After the meeting, I asked to see the famous ventilation system, it turns out to look no more than a glorified extractor fan. 

“The fan does work on one of the settings but the boost setting doesn’t work. 

“It is possible that the problem could be a switch or a fuse, meaning the cost to repair could be £5 rather than £5,000. 

“It seems that the Comhairle has not been to look at the ventilation system but instead has marched ahead with threatening to close the canteen, preventing children from getting food freshly cooked on the school premises.

He said Eoligarry canteen has one of the highest uptakes of school dinners in the islands and parents attribute that to the skill of their long-serving and caring cook

On Monday June 3rdthe MP called on the Comhairle to abandon their sudden plan to close the school canteen, demanding that they keep promises to parents as well as keeping the cook’s job.

He described the treatment of the cook as ‘shoddy and awful’ saying: “Parents of pupils from Eoligarry School are dismayed that since the cook registered a problem with the ventilation system in the kitchen, the approach of the Comhairle is not to sort the problem but to close the kitchen.

“Parents were promised in November that nothing would change at the school and the Comhairle should honour that promise.”