Dáil Éireann - Volume 477 - 17 April, 1997

Adjournment Debate. - Lucan (Dublin) Multi-denominational School.

Mr. Lenihan: I thank the Chair for permitting me to raise on the Adjournment the issue of the provision of a multi-denominational school in Lucan. I realise that the Minister and her officials have had very limited notification of this matter. I understand there have been some preliminary discussions but that no written material has yet been submitted to the Department. I raised the matter on the Adjournment because we appear to be in the terminal stages of this Dáil, and I was anxious that the Minister should be formally put on notice prior to a general election of the requirement for temporary accommodation for such a school beginning this year.

There has been substantial development in the Lucan district. Census data of recent years shows that in 1986 the population of the three district electoral divisions comprising the Lucan district was 12,988. At the 1991 census that figure had increased to 14,431 persons, and in the census recorded last year the population had increased to 20,172 persons. In addition I would estimate that in the past three years over 3,000 houses have been constructed in the Lucan district. That is a very substantial amount of development.

Earlier this year a group of residents met in response to a local demand to educate children of all beliefs and cultural backgrounds together and, in order to help their children to have that opportunity, to set in motion the planning for a multi-denominational school in the district. It has been suggested that there may have been an element of social division in this, but from the enrolments that have taken place to date it is clear that persons throughout the Lucan district have expressed an interest in having their children attend this particular school. The initial meeting was attended by a substantial number of persons. The objective of the group is to satisfy the Department's requirement and apply for permission to open a primary school using the policies [1502] of Educate Together in September 1997 with facilities for temporary accommodation at the initial stage and progressing in time to a permanent site and building to provide the general Lucan area with a multi-denominational school. Pre-enrolment took place on 5 April this year when parents were invited to enrol their children in the infant classes from 1997 until 2001. Twenty-three enrolled for 1997, 35 for 1998, 31 for 1999, 38 for 2000 and 32 for 2001. I will not give the categorisation of the different children. There is a demand in the district, and I am drawing that to the attention of the Minister. It is an urgent matter because if the demand continues, there will be a need for temporary accommodation this year.

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach): I wish to thank the Deputy for raising this matter. It gives me an opportunity to clarify the position.

There is no application in my Department for the establishment of a new multi-denominational school in Lucan. However, my Department would be willing to consider a formal application for recognition for such a school.

If the establishment of a multi-denominational school in September 1997 is currently under consideration, it is imperative that the proposers of the school should forward an application to the planning section of the Department in Tullamore without delay. The application should include details of proposed enrolment, accommodation and patronage of the school. The proposers might wish to consult Educate Together, the umbrella body for multi-denominational schools, before finalising their application.

The provision of temporary accommodation would be the responsibility of the proposers of the school. However, if the school were granted provisional recognition, 50 per cent of any reasonable rental cost would be grant-aided by my Department.

In conclusion, I would stress the necessity for any application for recognition as a new national school from September next to be submitted as soon as possible to enable the necessary investigations to be put in train by my Department.