Dáil Éireann - Volume 471 - 13 November, 1996

Adjournment Debate. - Coláiste De hÍde, Tallaght (Dublin).

Mr. Flood: I thank the Chair for the opportunity to raise this important matter and the Minister of State for coming to the House. I have a personal interest in this project in that a member of my family currently attends the school as a student.

There are two all-Irish primary schools serving the Tallaght area, Scoil Santain and Scoil Chaitlín Maude. For a number of years students in the Tallaght area wishing to further their education through the medium of Irish at second level had the option of attending Coláiste Chilliain which is located in Clondalkin. Because of the growth [1012] in numbers in the catchment area for Coláiste Chilliain, that safety valve was closed off to students from Tallaght in the past few years. This made the issue of the provision of a permanent second level school in the Tallaght area all the more urgent.

Coláiste de hÍde was sanctioned in November 1992. It opened its doors in temporary buildings in September 1993 and currently has approximately 150 students. It occupies an inferior site which is very small, and the accommodation consists entirely of prefabricated buildings. The site in the Mountain Park area of Tallaght, the arrangement of the prefabricated buildings and the fact that the site is railed off with very high railings are of concern to parents from the perspective of evacuating the site in the event of a fire or some other emergency. For these and other reasons it is important that progress be made with regard to the provision of a permanent building to accommodate Coláiste de hÍde. As well as the current student population of 150 on an extremely overcrowded site, it is expected that an additional 50 students approximately will seek entry to the college next September.

The school is an excellent school. It is soundly supported by the parents and has an excellent staff. It is very popular and there is a high demand for entry to it, but it is totally inadequate to cater for the needs of second level students. A permanent building is urgently needed.

The Department of Education currently owns a suitable site in the Tallaght area, referred to locally as the “Tymon Park site”, and the Minister for Education has indicated in replies to me that she has approved that site for the erection of a permanent building. For a number of years the local authority maintained the site because the Department of Education had no use for it and was not in a position to maintain it properly. Differences arose between the Department of Education and the local authority with regard to compensating the local authority for maintaining the site over the past number of years, and the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee, which has responsibility for the provision of the school at the direction of the Minister for Education, is caught in the middle.

I understand that strenuous efforts have been made in the past number of months to resolve the difficulties with the local authority. However, the Minister for Education owns the site and would be entitled, subject to reasonable consultation with the local authority, to proceed with the provision of a permanent building. It is this failure to provide a permanent building that has annoyed the parents of the students attending Coláiste de hÍde.

What is required is a commitment from the Minister that she will insist on the site being used immediately for the provision of a permanent building and, if difficulties arise, will use her office to ensure that after reasonable consultation [1013] the project will proceed. Also needed is the Minister's full support for the project. It gives me no great pleasure to say that the view of parents is that the Minister is lukewarm about this project. We hope that is not the case. It is also required that the Minister ensure that the necessary finance is included in this year's Estimates to provide a permanent building.

What the parents do not want to happen towards the end of this year or early next year is for a site to become available with no difficulties, the planning and design stages to be completed and at the end of the process to be told there is no finance available to provide the building. A commitment must be given to proceed with the construction of this much needed project on a site in the ownership of the Department of Education and every effort must be made to ensure that the building is open and ready for business in September 1997. That is the call of the parents and it is not unreasonable. I seek a commitment to be given tonight that these objectives can be met.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Currie): I am grateful to have this opportunity to clarify the position concerning the proposed new school for Coláiste de hÍde in Tallaght. Initially, I will give some details regarding the background to this case.

Coláiste de hÍde is an all-Irish post-primary school which was established under the aegis of County Dublin Vocational Education Committee in September 1993. The school is at present housed in the Cumann Gaelach premises in Oldbawn, Tallaght, Dublin 24. It is accepted that these premises are not adequate for second level school purposes because only very limited facilities are available. In an effort to alleviate the problem in the short-term, the Department recently approved the provision of prefabricated accommodation on the site. However, this is not intended to be anything more than a short-term solution to the school's accommodation difficulties.

The Minister has decided that permanent accommodation should be provided to cater for a long-term enrolment of 600 pupils and she has approved the use of the Department's site at Tymon Park for the purpose of providing the new school. Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to secure immediate vacant possession of the Tymon Park site from South Dublin County Council due to its current use as part of a wider amenity area. The matter has been the subject of negotiations between the vocational education committee and the county council with a view to a resolution of the problems involved. The Deputy also referred to strenuous efforts to reach agreement. Officials of the Department have also met with representatives of the council to stress the urgency of the situation relating to the accommodation needs of Coláiste de hÍde.

I am fully aware of the pressing need for this new facility and it is hoped that the position [1014] relating to the siting of the new school will be finalised shortly. Every effort will be made to ensure that architectural planning for this project is progressed as quickly as possible and construction commenced at the earliest opportunity. The actual date for the commencement of work on site will very much depend on the capital allocation to be made for post-primary building purposes in 1997. The Coláiste de hÍde project will receive every priority.