Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 08 October, 1997
Adjournment Debate. - Trim (Meath) School.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
Mr. J. Bruton: I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter. The people of Trim have been requesting a new boys' secondary school for the past 15 years. As Taoiseach I was delighted, with the co-operation of the then Minister, Niamh Bhreathnach, to get agreement for building a new community school in Trim to cater for a long-term enrolment of 825 pupils. After difficult discussions and examination of possible sites, a site was obtained from the Bishop of Meath at the back of St. Michael's boys school in Trim, formerly known as the Model School.
On 29 May 1997 advertisements were placed in the European Journal for the appointment of a consultant architect to prepare the design scheme. To the best of my knowledge, very little has been done since then, and that is why I am raising the matter. I visited the school during the week and it is in bad condition. There are five cubicle toilets to cater for 600 boys. There is only one science room and one woodwork room. A payment was due to St. Finian's diocesan trust for the purchase of the site, but it was not paid. There is a sense in Trim that very little is being done in this regard.
Following news that I was meeting the parents and management of the school, the Minister for the Environment, who had been requested to meet them, agreed to such a meeting. Perhaps some progress has been made as a result of that meeting. I understand the Minister issued a circular indicating that something was being done about the design team. The Minister for Education should say exactly what will be done about completion of the design, which is stage two in the process, and when the project will move to stages three, four and five. Will the Minister ensure money is provided in the overall allocation for 1998 for the commencement of building at Trim?
I understand planning permission must be obtained before the other stages can commence, and that cannot be done until the design scheme is finalised. Many difficulties may arise with the design of a school. The site in question is a restricted one and it is very important the design work is carried out in conformity with the site. It is important that the old model school on the site is preserved because it has considerable architectural  merit and is part of the historical heritage of Trim. It could be used for some of the administrative facilities of the school.
The present phase, the design phase which I initiated as Taoiseach, with the aid of the then Minister, should be completed quickly so that the remaining phases will move forward to the point where the school can draw down money from the 1998 Estimates. There should be no problem with school building funds in the Estimates. The economy is doing well at present and most people would attribute that primarily to the excellence of education and the quality of graduates from Irish education. We should recognise that educating young people in squalid conditions, as is the case in Trim, does not give the best start in life. I hope the Minister will give us good news on this occasion.
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin) Micheál Martin
Minister for Education and Science (Mr. Martin): I thank Deputy Bruton for raising the issue of the second level school in Trim. I would like to provide some background details regarding the proposed new community school in Trim, County Meath. Approval was given for the provision of a new community school to replace the existing St. Michael's CBS and vocational school in Trim following a detailed feasibility study of the options for second level education in the area.
Because of the additional costs associated with the St. Michael's site, my Department had no alternative but to examine the possibility of acquiring alternative sites in the area. However, as there were no suitable sites in the Trim area available for school development, the St. Michael's diocesan school was purchased and a design team appointed to undertake the architectural planning.
The development plan will involve the refurbishment of some buildings, the rebuilding of existing structures of varying ages, the demolition of unusable buildings and the construction of a large extension. The approximate gross floor areas will be 5,200 square metres. The design team has been instructed by my Department to prepare stage two of architectural planning — the outline sketch scheme — and this will be submitted within the next six weeks. I stress that while every effort will be made to expedite the planning of the school, the timing of release to contract for building work will very much depend on the rate of progress for architectural planning up to the point where tenders can be sought.
The project at Trim is a major capital investment by the State involving a substantial input of technical and professional expertise. The technical task involved is made even more complex by the necessity to incorporate some of the existing buildings on the St. Michael's site into the new development. As a consequence, it is extremely difficult to give a precise timetable for completion of the building at this early stage in the development. However, I fully appreciate the importance of completing work on the new community school at Trim. The Minister for the Environment has  been in touch with me on the issue and this project is receiving high priority.
It was unfortunate that in advance of the election considerable commitments were given — I am not saying this is one of the projects on which a commitment was given — while the exact amount of money to meet those commitments was not available. That has created difficulties, but in the context of the 1998 Estimates, with which we are dealing at present, the picture will be clearer in terms of the detailed funding allocations to each school project. This project will receive very high priority because of the reasons  outlined by the Deputy. I agree with his comments that the economy is doing well because of wise decisions made in the past by a previous generation of politicians who invested in education. It continues to be the aim of the Government to invest in education because that is the cornerstone of future economic progress.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
Mr. J. Bruton: I will follow up on this matter.
Mr. Martin Mr. Martin
Mr. Martin: I have no doubt about that.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.20 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 9 October 1997. 
Dáil Éireann 481 Adjournment Debate. Trim (Meath) School.