Dáil Éireann - Volume 537 - 12 June, 2001

Priority Questions. - School Accommodation.

[1059] 60. Mr. Creed asked the Minister for Education and Science the situation regarding the provision of permanent accommodation for a Gaelscoil, details supplied, in view of the unsuitable and unsafe nature of the existing accommodation, the situation regarding a proposed school extension, and if his Department will make the necessary funds available in 2001 for the building project to proceed. [17301/01]

Dr. Woods: The details supplied by the Deputy refer to two primary schools. In regard to the Gaelscoil, my Department's building unit has been requested by the school authorities to grant aid repair works to the roof of a building currently occupied by the school and to seek out a site for a new school.

The Gaelscoil entered into a lease arrangement, to which my Department is not a party, and this lease expires at the end of June 2001. The school authorities have already arranged for some works to be carried out to the roof of the building and my Department has agreed to grant aid these works. However, my Department understands from the school that further repair works are necessary.

In that context, I am pleased to inform the Deputy that my Department has now arranged for a technical manager to visit the school to discuss with the school authorities the extent of the works to be carried out to the roof of the building.

While my Department is prepared to provide this funding and to give any technical assistance necessary, this can only be done in the context of a new lease being agreed between the school authorities and the landlord concerned for a period of five years.

My Department is committed to acquiring a site and to constructing a new Gaelscoil as soon as possible. I have accordingly requested the Office of Public Works to begin an immediate search for a suitable site. My Department will keep the board informed of developments.

On the second school referred to by the Deputy, an application for capital improvement works and additional accommodation has been received in my Department. The application is being examined in the planning and building unit of my Department. In the course of the examination, account will be taken of factors such as enrolment and demographic trends in the area and the availability of accommodation in other schools in close proximity.

Pending a decision on the accommodation requirements of the school concerned, my Department will continue to grant aid 95% of the rental cost of temporary accommodation to meet the school's short-term requirements.

I have asked officials of my Department to finalise this examination as speedily as possible and to notify the school authorities of the decision at the earliest possible date.

[1060] Mr. Creed: I thank the Minister for his reply. With regard to Gaelscoil Clonmel, I attended a public meeting last night with the Minister's colleague Deputy Davern, who brought tidings from the Minister. The Minister's proposal to ask the Office of Public Works to look for a site contingent on a further five year lease is entirely unacceptable, and that was the message, loud and clear, from the parents last night.

Will the Minister say if his Department will comply with the report of the architectural manager, Mr. Joe Davis, dated 15 March 1996, where he stated quite clearly that the grammar school is not suitable to the long-term needs of the Gaelscoil? I understand from the Minister that Mr. Davis will visit Clonmel on Thursday, and as is known, the INTO have threatened to go on strike. Will the Minister commit himself not just to purchasing a site and sitting on it for a five year period while the Gaelscoil lease expires, but specifically to fast tracking the design, planning, invitation of tenders and signing of contracts so that the students and teachers, who are currently working in appalling conditions in Gaelscoil Clonmel will be in a position to enter into a new school as quickly as possible? I further ask the Minister, as I was asked to do so at a public meeting last night, if he will meet the board of management and the staff of the school when he will undoubtedly visit south Tipperary and Clonmel over the coming weeks?

With regard to the second school, this school operates on two campuses, one on either side of a public roadway. That is entirely unacceptable from both an educational and a safety perspective. In that regard – and I make this argument from the particular to the general in respect of the query made by Deputy Shortall earlier – the school building programme is chaotic. This is not a reflection on anybody in the school building unit in Tullamore, but it is high time there was a root and branch reform of the way we go about our business in terms of school building. Will the Minister commit himself to fast tracking Rathkeevin national school also?

Dr. Woods: I read out the replies as quickly as I can, knowing we have very limited time for giving replies, so the Deputy may not have heard me. However, the request I had from the school was to seek a site now. It was accepted that the Office of Public Works will seek a site but the school wants to see movement in that regard because nothing can happen until the site is obtained. I have made that very clear to the school but I have also said that my Department is committed to acquiring a site and to constructing a new gaelscoil as soon as possible.

Mr. Creed: Is as soon as possible—

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister, without interruption.

[1061] Dr. Woods: The Deputy referred to it being contingent on a five year lease. My Department would not enter into an agreement with the local authority concerned unless it had a five year lease. If the operation is completed and ready to go in two or three years or whatever, it goes ahead at that stage but they would want to have the cover for a reasonable period. That is normal practice. The difficulty is that we are dealing with hundreds, if not thousands, of cases and that is the normal procedure followed by the Office of Public Works.

An Ceann Comhairle: We must proceed to Question No. 61. We are way over time now.

Mr. Creed: Can I ask a brief supplementary?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must be very brief.

Mr. Creed: Will the Minister meet the board of management and staff of Gaelscoil Clonmel? Is the Minister aware that the landlord, which is the local authority, will not enter into a five year lease with the school and that the board of management, the staff and the parents are entirely—

An Ceann Comhairle: I call the Minister to give a brief reply.

Dr. Woods: That is a day to day routine matter between two State bodies which should sort out whether it is a three or a five year lease. I want to be clear. We do not intend to spend a couple of hundred thousand pounds doing works on a site for which we will not have a lease. That would be irresponsible on the part of my Department.

An Ceann Comhairle: We must proceed to Question No. 61.

Dr. Woods: Therefore, as long as there is a reasonable lease, those works will go ahead. On the question of meeting the board of management, I have no problem meeting it.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair has called Question No. 61.