Dáil Éireann - Volume 280 - 30 April, 1975

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - School Transport Service.

19. Mr. C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education if he will extend the school bus service from Moylisha Cross to Glen Cross, where there is a turning area for a bus, to collect two children (details supplied) in County Carlow to attend Clonegal national school.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education (Mr. Bruton): An extension of the route as suggested by the Deputy is not feasible as the roads in the locality are regarded by CIE as too narrow and hazardous for the large bus which is engaged on this particular transport service.

I am having the matter further examined, however, to see if it may be possible to meet the transport problem in relation to these children in some other way.

Mr. C. Murphy: On 5th November the Parliamentary Secretary wrote to me on this matter. He is aware that the school which this child attended was closed and amalgamated with the school at Clonegal which is six miles from the child's home. At the moment the child has to travel 2.3 miles to reach the bus. Would the Parliamentary Secretary not accept that what I have offered here is a viable alternative?

Mr. Bruton: I agree with the statements [794] made by the Deputy in the first part of his question. However, CIE who advise us on transport matters have stated the roads are too narrow for extension of the regular service to go nearer this family's house. However, I can assure the Deputy that I will do everything possible to find some other solution which is consistent with the advice of CIE to enable this family to get an improved service.

Mr. C. Murphy: In other words, this route will be examined?

Mr. Bruton: Every possible avenue will be examined.

20. Mr. C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education why school transport will not be provided for an 11-year-old boy (name supplied) in County Wicklow from Ashtown, Roundwood.

Mr. Bruton: The child in question is not eligible for free school transport as he resides only half a mile from Roundwood national school which is his nearest suitable school.

Mr. C. Murphy: I accept what the Parliamentary Secretary has said but is he aware that this boy previously lived in Bray and that his parents wished him to continue attending school there?

Mr. Bruton: The situation still obtains that this child lives only half a mile from Roundwood national school which is a perfectly good national school. As in the case of parents in any other situation if they want to send their children to any other school they are perfectly free to do so but it is to the nearest school that transport will be provided.

Mr. C. Murphy: This is all right in the case of situations which arise but ought not be a hard and fast rule in the case of existing situations. Would the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that the parents simply wanted continuity in the child's education? It means now that the child must wait in Bray town from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. for a bus while the school bus which has seats available leaves Bray at [795] 4 p.m. The Parliamentary Secretary will be aware that there is no shortage of numbers in Roundwood national school as Moneystown national school is going to be phased out——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is embarking on a speech.

Mr. C. Murphy: I hope I am not. I prefaced it with an interrogative.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not sufficient.

Mr. C. Murphy: I am asking a question. As Moneystown national school is being phased out, does the Minister not think there are ample numbers in Roundwood and this should be a special case? Would he look into the matter again?

Mr. Bruton: If you start giving transport to children who are only half a mile from the nearest school to other schools in any case you cannot resist doing it in many others and that would lead to a chaotic situation.

Mr. Allen: Is it now the policy of the Department to reduce rather than increase the number of children being carried to national schools?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is a specific question.

Mr. Allen: It relates to school transport.

An Ceann Comhairle: It relates to a specific place and I will not allow an extension.

21. Mr. C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided for a ten-year-old boy (name supplied) in County Carlow to Knockananna national school.

Mr. Bruton: The child in question would not normally be eligible for free transport to school as he is over 10 years of age and resides less than three miles from Knockananna national school. On medical grounds, however, facilities are at present being provided for him and these will be continued until summer, 1976, when the position will be reviewed.

[796] Mr. C. Murphy: When were those facilities provided?

Mr. Bruton: I have not got the date. I do not think it is very long ago.

Mr. C. Murphy: Would it have been within the last three weeks, since representations were made?

22. Mr. C. Murphy asked the Minister for Education if school transport will be provided for three children of the same family (details supplied) to Kilcoole national school, County Wicklow.

Mr. Bruton: As the children in question reside less than two miles from the national schools in Kilcoole, they are not eligible for free transport under the conditions of the ordinary scheme. A claim that they would have attended Newcastle national school, which was amalgamated with the Kilcoole national school on 1st July, 1968, and as such are entitled to transport under the special arrangements applicable in amalgamation cases is being investigated, and I shall let the Deputy know the outcome in due course.

Mr. C. Murphy: Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that those children should have had school transport prior to 1st November last year?

Mr. Bruton: I am informed that some members of the family had transport irregularly for some time while there was room on the bus but that this was due to a misunderstanding and to laxity on the part of some of the people directly involved. Their case for transport in a regular fashion is being investigated and I understand that an official of the Department will be visiting the area in about three weeks.

Mr. C. Murphy: The Parliamentary Secretary can close his brief on that as the family are now taking up residence elsewhere. However, there is the point that those children did not attend school from mid-November because of this transport problem.

[797] An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is imparting information, not seeking it.

Mr. C. Murphy: Both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary seem to have been quite lax on this.

23. Mr. Cronin asked the Minister for Education if, in view of the fact that the essential qualifications have been fulfilled, he will sanction a transport service to Buttevant national school, County Cork, from the Grange and Boherascrub areas.

Mr. Bruton: Since there are at present only nine children eligible for free school transport in the Grange and Boherascrub areas, the conditions necessary for the provision of a service under the free transport scheme do not exist. However, the position is being kept under continuing review and particular attention will be paid to the position likely to arise on 1st July at the start of the new school year. It is understood that there may be ten eligible children from the areas concerned attending Buttevant national school in July and if this proves to be so a service will then be established.

24. Mr. G. Collins asked the Minister for Education why persons (names supplied) in County Limerick have not been deemed eligible for transport to the new national school in Abbeyfeale.

Mr. Bruton: I understand that this application was refused on the grounds that the children have transport facilities available to them to their nearest national school, Knocknasna national school.

However, in view of representations received, I am having inquiries made and I will communicate with the Deputy in the matter in due course.

Mr. G. Collins: Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that those children live in the catchment area of Springmount national school which has recently been closed and that the children in this catchment area are being provided with transport to the new national school in Abbeyfeale and that the three young children in question would seemingly be eligible [798] for transport to the new national school in Abbeyfeale?

Mr. Bruton: When a school is closed and amalgamated with another free transport to the amalgamated school is provided for children who were bona fide on the rolls of the closed school and for those residing in the closed school area who could have been expected to have attended that school if it had remained open. It is the applicability of those conditions in the case of this family that is being investigated at present.

Mr. G. Collins: When is it likely that the Parliamentary Secretary will have a decision on this matter? It has been going on for a number of weeks. If a little case like this takes so much time, there must be quite a backlog in the transport section of the Department.

Mr. Bruton: I will do everything I can to have it expedited.

Mr. Allen: Regarding the measurement for school transport——

An Ceann Comhairle: I am sorry to interrupt Deputy Allen but I want to bring to his notice that this question deals with a specific matter appertaining to Limerick and I will not allow an extension.

Mr. Allen: How does the Ceann Comhairle know I am not asking a question about Limerick? He did not give me a chance to ask it.

An Ceann Comhairle: It is not a relevant question.

Mr. Allen: How do you know until I ask it?

25. Mr. Meaney asked the Minister for Education if he will take steps to renew the transport service for Muinifluigh national school, Macroom, County Cork.

Mr. Bruton: There is not, at present, a sufficient number of eligible children available in the locality in question to warrant the retention of the transport service to Muinifluigh national school under the terms of the free transport scheme. The position will be kept under review and should the required [799] number of eligible children become available, the service will be reintroduced.

Mr. Meaney: How many children in the area are considered eligible?

Mr. Bruton: Eight.

Mr. Meaney: Would the Minister take cognisance of the fact that this is a very rural area situated at the foot of the Musheragh hills and because the service has been withdrawn those children are deprived of the chance of a proper education?

Mr. Bruton: The service was designed to cope with situations in rural areas such as this and if the minimum number of children is eligible, the service will be reintroduced.

Mr. Meaney: The Parliamentary Secretary says the service was designed to cater for children such as those. I say this is an exceptional case. People in a very rural area are being deprived of their rights as citizens and the children are not getting the facilities that are due to them. The Department are penny-pinching. This is the third service I was successful in getting started that had been cut out in the last one-and-a-half years but the people will hit back hard.

Mr. Bruton: The rule is and has always been that there must be 10 eligible children available for the establishment of a service and there are only eight in this case at present.

Mr. Haughey: Would the Parliamentary Secretary not consider bending the rules?

Mr. Meaney: There are only eight because they will not extend the area as has happened in other areas. This is a disgraceful situation.

26. Mr. Davern asked the Minister for Education why children (names supplied) in County Tipperary are deprived of free transport to Cahir national school.

Mr. Bruton: In order to cater for children in the locality in question it would be necessary to institute a [800] special transport service. Since there are only four children eligible for transport it would not be open to the Department under the terms of the school transport scheme to provide such a service.

Mr. Davern: In view of the closure of Garryclogher national school, would the Parliamentary Secretary be prepared to reconsider the position?

Mr. Bruton: I do not think it would be possible to extend the Garryclogher route to cope with these children. There is no interconnecting road which would be suitable for the bus and, apparently, it would have to go all the way to Cahir and back again. This would be tantamount to a special service for these children.

Mr. Davern: In view of the closure of the school referred to, these children are in the catchment area and, consequently, are they not entitled to free transport?

Mr. Bruton: I do not think these children are in the closed Garryclogher school area.

Mr. Davern: They are.

Mr. Bruton: I shall have a look at the situation.

Mr. Davern: Would the Parliamentary Secretary consider the provision of a special transport service for these children? There are still some very young families in the area.

Mr. Bruton: My information as to what is the position conflicts with what Deputy Davern has said but having regard to his argument, I shall have the matter looked into again.

27. Mr. Brennan asked the Minister for Education if he will reconsider his decision not to provide transport for children from the townland of Carrickatleave to Meentinadea national school, County Donegal.

Mr. Bruton: In order to warrant the provision of a transport service to a national school from a particular locality, the number of children eligible for free transport in that [801] locality must be at least ten. In a recent survey of the Carrickatleave area no child was found to be eligible. Eligible children are those between four and ten years of age who have a distance of at least two miles to travel to the nearest suitable school while for children over ten years of age the minimum distance is three miles. Accordingly, the provision of a transport service to cater for this locality is not warranted under the terms of the scheme.

Mr. Brennan: We are becoming tired of this stock reply. Is the Parliamentary Secretary prepared to admit that these rules are capable of being bent, that they have been bent in many cases particularly in relation to Protestant schools? Has he any knowledge of what is involved in the request I have made on behalf of the 12 children who must walk along a bleak lonely mountain road for a distance of more than two miles and three of whom are beginning school? If transport is not provided they will not be able to go to school. Other children who live closer to the school can avail of free transport. Is it not time that this whole question of measuring miles was changed——

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Mr. Brennan: ——and that the rule which we fixed at the beginning and which is flexible and subject to the discretion of the Minister be changed so as to allow transport for all children?

Mr. Bruton: Practically all the children in this case are less than two miles from the nearest school.

Mr. Brennan: That is not correct.

Mr. Bruton: Various exceptional circumstances might be put forward in respect of every school in Ireland but to operate a scheme in a proper manner one must abide by basic rules.

Mr. Brennan: The Parliamentary Secretary has not answered my question as to whether he would admit that the rule has been bent in many instances, that it is subject to the discretion of the Minister. Surely a case [802] can be made for including children who must walk more than two miles on a bare mountain road.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is indulging in repetition.

Mr. Bruton: When there is accommodation on a school bus, children who are not eligible for free transport can be accommodated as fare-paying passengers. It is not possible to bend the rule in cases so as to suit people who are able to exert pressure in one quarter.

Mr. Nolan: Is it true that the Minister for Education informed CIE that there would be no extension of the free transport scheme, even in respect of those who qualify for it, because of the lack of finance in the Department?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is injecting new material into the matter.

Mr. G. Collins: Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree that a review of the whole system of school transport be carried out quickly?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is an extension of a specific question.

Mr. Wilson: With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I wish to raise on the Adjournment the subject matter of Question No. 34 of 29th April, 1975.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair will communicate with the Deputy.