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St Mark’s Special School Celebrates 50 Years

St Mark’s School in Newbridge celebrated a significant milestone this week with the 50th anniversary of its founding.

Staff and pupils, past and present, came together with families and other special guests including Minister of State Martin Heydon TD for a celebratory event at the school campus. The gathering featured an artwork display, video and musical performance by students. This was followed by a reception, where guests shared memories and celebrated the impact St Mark’s has had on generations of students and families.


Established in March 1974, St Mark’s provides education for students aged 5–18 with mild general learning difficulties in an empowering and supportive environment. It was founded by local charity organisation Kare, which now provides services for people with intellectual disabilities across Kildare, west Wicklow and east Offaly, and is Patron of the school.


In its 50-year history, St Mark’s has catered for more than 850 students.


Minister Heydon, who spoke at the event, highlighted the importance of inclusive education: "Since St Mark’s was founded in 1974, it has become a key pillar of education in Kildare and very much part of the fabric of our local community. Today’s celebration is a chance to reaffirm our commitment to creating a society where everyone has access to quality education and opportunities for success."


Chairperson of the St Mark’s Board of Management, Noeleen Burke, commented: "On this special occasion, we celebrate the legacy and impact of St Mark’s over its 50 years of providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all, helping every student over the years to thrive and succeed."


CEO of Kare, Deirdre Murphy, said: "Kare is very proud to be Patron of St Mark’s School and of the fantastic students that walk its halls. The progress of the school is testament to the dedication and passion of the staff and supporters who have championed the cause of children with different learning abilities. As we look to the next 50 years, we remain committed to empowering every young person to reach their full potential."


Initially located in the John F. Kennedy Boxing Hall in Kilcullen when it first opened its doors in 1974, plans were already underway to relocate St. Marks to a new site in Newbridge. On the first day, 21 pupils enrolled and Patricia Greene was the school’s first Principal.


In 1978, the school was officially opened in its second location in Piercetown, Newbridge, where it remains today, by Jim Tunney, then Minister of State in the Department of Education. At that point there were 100 students with mild general learning disabilities enrolled.


St Mark’s continued to progress and Peter Donohoe became the school’s second Principal in 2004, introducing FETAC Level 3 for junior cycle and a 5th and 6th year leaving programme. In 2014, the St Mark’s Board of Management applied to the Department of Education for an extension to the existing building.


Following Peter Donohoe’s retirement in 2014, Alma Carley became the third Principal of St Mark’s and continued the expansion of the school with the addition of four prefabricated buildings while awaiting further progress on the building application.


In 2017, Ross Dignam became Acting Principal and is currently overseeing the redevelopment project, which has evolved from the initial planned extension to an entirely new school build.


Ross Dignam commented: "For half a century, St Mark’s has been a place where young people are celebrated for their uniqueness and given the tools to thrive. It's been an honour to witness the growth and achievements of our students over the years and we look forward to the next chapter of development for our school."


To learn more about St Mark’s, visit


To learn more about Kare and the services it provides, visit

Pictured above: Chair of the Board of Management Noeleen Burke cutting the cake with Minster of State Martin Heydon, Acting Principal Ross Dignam, former Principal Peter Donohoe and current students of St Mark's.

L–R: Karen Bolger (St Mark's Board of Management), Dee White (Kare), Peter Donohoe (Former Principal), Noeleen Burke (Chair, St Mark's Board of Management), Minister of State Martin Heydon TD, Ross Dignam (Acting Principal), Peter Furlong (Kare), Noel Merrick (Kare Board of Directors)

Guests embracing the 70s theme


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