Dáil Éireann - Volume 565 - 09 April, 2003

Private Members' Business. - School Accommodation: Motion (Resumed).

  The following motion was moved by Deputy O'Sullivan on Tuesday, 8 April 2003:

    That Dáil Éireann:

    – deploring:

     – the cutback in expenditure on the school building programme for 2003;

     – the seriously dilapidated and overcrowded conditions of hundreds of schools around the country;

     – the failure of the Government to use the unprecedented resources available to it since 1997 to ameliorate these conditions; and

     – the trail of broken promises left by Government Ministers, Deputies and candidates in advance of the general election who made specific commitment to schools and parents that have not been honoured;

    – noting:

     – the stalled position of over 500 schools on Department of Education and Science architectural planning lists;

[124]      – the total lack of transparency as to when these schools will have their problems addressed; and

     – the failure of some schools to reach basic health and safety standards;

    – calls for:

     – a Supplementary Estimate to address the most urgent priority schools in 2003;

     – the immediate establishment of the long-promised database on school accommodation, with a specific timeframe for completion;

     – substantially increased funding over the period 2004-08 to bring all schools up to established minimum standards;

     – the provision of clear indications to principals, boards of management and parents as to when necessary refurbishment will be carried out; and

     – the creation of a learning environment in all schools to allow pupils to realise their full potential, free from the constraints on development and progress imposed by inadequate facilities and run-down conditions.”

  Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

    To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and insert the following:

    “– commends the Government for investing record levels of Exchequer funding in the school building programme since 1997;

    – notes the remarkable expansion of the school building and refurbishment programme at primary and second level;

    – recognises the need to address the historical infrastructural educational deficit on a planned phased basis in future years;

    – considers that a multi-annual funding approach is required;

    – supports the approach taken by the Minister for Education and Science in seeking a multi-annual capital funding envelope to put such a planned programme in place; and

    – commends the Minister for Education and Science for his management of the 2003 school building programme.”

–(Minister for Education and Science).  

  An Ceann Comhairle: I call Deputy Seán Power, who has 30 minutes.

  Mr. S. Power: I will take only five minutes as I wish to share time with my colleagues, some of whom were expecting a vote at 7 o'clock, but the Opposition is always full of surprises.

[125]   An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy indicate with which colleagues he is sharing time?

  Mr. S. Power: It is a bit like going to a junior football match – one is never sure until they show up so perhaps we could have some patience from the Opposition.

  Ms Burton: Surely the state of schools in Kildare is so bad the Deputy will have no difficulty in speaking for 30 minutes?

  Mr. S. Power: I will indicate that later, a Cheann Comhairle. I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak on the motion which deals with a subject that is of interest to many households. While we must accept that there is a problem, it is wrong to accuse the Government of ignoring the problem of school buildings. Since 1997, there has been a major investment in primary and post-primary schools throughout the country. We all have to accept responsibility for the fact that over the years previous Administrations did not invest adequate funds to provide proper accommodation and, as a result, a number of schools are in poor condition. However, the difficulties experienced by these schools can often be exaggerated. For example, when one hears about schools being rat infested one would have to ask questions about the boards of management involved. What board of management would allow a school to become rat infested? Most of us would have had experience of mice in schools, which was always a cause for laughter, but there is no excuse for having a rat-infested school.

  Some schools are in very poor condition, however, and it is important to address that matter. In his speech to the House yesterday, the Minister indicated that discussions were taking place between himself and the Minister for Finance with a view to putting in place a five-year capital programme. It is only right and fitting that that should be done because if a Minister knows what funds he will have for only one year, it is difficult for him to draw up a proper capital programme. I would like to see agreement being reached by both Ministers on that programme. The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, should take account of the huge population increases that have occurred in the counties bordering Dublin. I am speaking specifically about Kildare with which I am most familiar. Small villages and towns in that county, where there was little or no growth up to five or six years ago, have witnessed a huge increase in population. That in turn has resulted in overcrowded conditions in many local schools. When the Minister examines the situation he should acknowledge that fact and provide the necessary resources to deal with it.

  When the Minister published his list during the year, many schools that were not included on it expressed their annoyance. In the long run, however, it will be to everyone's benefit to pursue the system that has now been started by the Mini[126] ster, which is much more transparent and will serve us well.

  I will be sharing time with Deputy Tony Dempsey and Deputy O'Connor, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Mr. S. Power: This year the Minister introduced a pilot scheme for small rural schools which will have to be expanded upon. Up to now, the Department of Education and Science was dealing solely with builders whose only objective was to get as much profit out of any project as they could. Many people are willing to give something back to the community and they would have an opportunity to do so if this scheme was expanded. This is particularly the case concerning people whose children are attending local schools or who are themselves past pupils of such schools. They may be prepared to provide their services at a reduced cost – not seeking a profit but giving something back to the school from which they received so much themselves.

  Mr. T. Dempsey: Tá áthas orm an seans seo a fháil labhairt faoi chúrsaí oideachais mar níl aon rud níos tábhachtaí agus an t-airgead atá caite agus atá leagtha amach le caitheamh orthu ag an Aire, Nollaig Ó Diomsaigh. Having spent many years as a teacher, I welcome the Labour Party motion because it affords me a chance to debate education. Nothing affects our lives more than education, particularly in recent years when it has led to economic growth and, for want of a better term, the famous Celtic tiger.

  I note the word “transparency” in the motion but I would include the words balance and objectivity also. Although I am new to politics, I am not naive enough to expect Opposition parties to congratulate Governments on their achievements. Objectivity suggests, however, that the success of the past four or five years should at least be acknowledged. I will admit readily that there is an accommodation deficit in primary and post-primary schools but we should examine the contributory factors, some of which are the result of our success as a Government over the past few years.

  We must recognise that education has been under-resourced for many years by Governments of all colours. Another contributory factor is that the population growth predicted for 2011 on the east coast has already been surpassed and, thus, more children are seeking school places. Over the past four or five years, the Department of Education and Science has supplied 4,800 resource teachers, formerly referred to as remedial teachers, from a level of 400 or 500. Quite often such teachers have one room with one pupil, which obviously puts a strain on the system, although nobody would suggest that it was wrong to increase the supply of resource teachers.

  In the same period, the Government has succeeded in reducing the pupil-teacher ratio to 19:1 [127] in primary schools and 15:1 in secondary schools. Since there are fewer students per school room, consequently more rooms are required. We must also consider the factor of competing needs and in this regard we should assess what the Government has spent its money on. I have already instanced the increase in resource teachers but there has also been a huge increase in the number of classroom assistants or special needs assistants as they are called. There has been unprecedented expenditure on new information and communication technology in addition to a welcome increase in expenditure on the disability sector. Given that only so much money is available, competing needs together with historical under-funding and the other factors I mentioned have all led to an accommodation deficit.

  Let us examine the alarm that has been caused by the Opposition over what it terms the “huge cutback”. I would not choose to use that term because the reality is that under the programme for 2003, €342.9 million will be spent on the primary and post-primary sectors. That must be compared to the €344 million that was spent in 2002. To my way of thinking, that represents a decrease of €1.1 million, which is not a huge cutback. Later I will instance other cutbacks that have occurred under other Governments. There has been an overall increase in funding of 87% since 1997, the last time the Labour Party, the proposers of the motion, were in power. The number of primary teachers has increased by 3,450 and the number of secondary teachers has increased by 1,225. That represents a good use of resources.

  In 1997 when the Labour Party was last in power, some 30 primary school and 12 secondary school building projects were under way. In 2003, under this Government some 92 large-scale primary school and 12 secondary school projects have been addressed. That is not too bad if one compares like with like.

  Mr. F. McGrath: How many were completed in Wexford?

  Mr. Dempsey: Not enough. I am coming to that and I would be delighted to accept any help the Deputy might offer in having some completed in Wexford.

  I am bitterly disappointed that Gaelscoil Wexford did not come about. The Presentation Convent Wexford which opened in 1979 was promised a gymnasium. In 1994, a delegation from the school accompanied by Deputy Howlin met the former Minister, Niamh Bhreathnach. In a letter I received from the school, I note that the school understood that it had secured the gymnasium but that was not the case. In 1987, the Labour Party introduced a cutback – I believe it was introduced by the then Minister, Niamh Bhreathnach – and approximately 2,400 teachers left the primary school system. Therefore, cutbacks are not new. We should be realistic when we talk [128] about what is in place and together, le chéile, caithfimid dul ar aghaidh agus airgead a chaitheamh chun ceist an oideachais a chur chun cinn.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Government amendment to this motion. Having listened to the criticism levelled at the Minister for Education and Science and at the lack of funding for education in recent months, one can easily forget all the major and significant improvements that have occurred since 1997. Having spoken to school principals, parents and teachers in recent years, I am aware that there have been major and significant improvements in our education system since 1997.

  On the night we are debating this issue, it is important to reflect on what has been done. Every Deputy is aware of the needs in education and of the constant need for capital moneys to be spent on the improvement of schools. That is nothing new. Therefore, it was not a great brain wave that occurred to Members on the Opposite side of the House which prompted them to bring a motion such as this before the House. I hope that all Deputies are big enough to acknowledge the significant spend that has been invested in the area of education, which is something I support and of which the Government has been extremely supportive since 1997. There was a serious amount of under-funding in education by successive Governments prior to 1997. It takes a number of years to address the imbalance that existed and to try to correct the situation. Since 1997, this Government and the previous Government have made serious attempts to achieve that.

  Since 1997 funding in education has increased by 87% from €2.9 billion to €5.4 billion, which by any person's reckoning is a a massive amount of money. Capital funding has increased from €124 million to €608 million which represents an increase of 388%. The capitation funding for primary schools has increased from €57 per pupil to €101 per pupil, representing an increase of 80%. School principals recognise that is a significant improvement. The number of teaching places has increased by 288%. How many times in recent years have we spoken in this House about the pupil-teacher ratio and the need to encourage more young people to become teachers. That is exactly what successive Ministers on this side of the House have done since 1997 to seriously address the issue of the pupil-teacher ratio and to provide for special needs teachers in our education system.

  Some 2,500 additional special needs assistants have been placed in our schools. I am sure Deputies on all sides of the House receive representations from schools when a new school or an extension to a school is required. When I was elected in 1997 I remember the major financial burden placed on the trustees of schools to try to acquire sites for new schools. However, since January 1999 Fianna Fáil-led Governments have put in place a measure whereby the State acquires [129] sites for new schools. That has eased the burden on parents and teachers. Many members of my family and associates of mine have been involved in the teaching profession for many years. I am aware that those involved in the profession were under a major burden to fund raise to maintain their jobs and schools. That measure was a major improvement and benefit for parents, teachers and pupils.

  In the past the trustees of schools had to pay 10% of the capital cost of a new school or an extension. That cost has now been capped at €63,000 for a new school and €31,500 for a school extension. It is easy to gloss over all the improvements that have been made in education in recent years, particularly in a year when there are budgetary constraints. It is easy to ignore the improvements that have been made and to bring what I believe is a politically opportunistic—

  Ms O'Sullivan: Those representing the schools on the list would tell the Deputy how important is this motion.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: —motion before the House, which does not stand up to scrutiny. It certainly does not stand up to scrutiny when one reflects on the performance of the Labour Party when it was in Government.

  Ms O'Sullivan: That is not true.

  Miss de Valera: It is true.

  Mr. F. McGrath: The Independents can be excluded from that.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: When one is sitting on the Opposition benches—

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy should conclude.

  Ms Cooper-Flynn: I was only getting into my stride. When Opposition Deputies were in Government they did not perform and now that they are sitting back and cosy in Opposition they highlight where we on this side of the House can make improvements. We are in the same boat as everybody else. We recognise that additional improvements need to be made, but we must recognise that there has been a major spend in education and a major benefit from that. I commend the Minister on the various innovative approaches he has taken in a time of tight budgetary constraints. He is now examining how we can get better value for money in the new schools building programme. I regret I do not have more time to cover all I wanted to say.

  Mr. O'Connor: I wish to share my time with Deputies Finneran and Killeen.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is agreed.

[130]   Mr. O'Connor: Like other colleagues, I will be challenged to fit all I want to say into five minutes. I thought that I might just rattle off the word “Tallaght” 800 times to focus the Minister's attention.

  (Interruptions).

  Mr. O'Connor: I also contemplated spending some time listing what has been achieved by the Government and by Fianna Fáil in my constituency of Dublin South-West in recent years, but I will not do that. There was a good deal of talk in recent days and I notice the Labour spin doctors are working overtime and reworking much of their old spin. I notice they are referring to what was said and what was not said during the election.

  Ms O'Sullivan: We heard this from school principals.

  Mr. O'Connor: I will put up my two hands and tell Members that when I campaigned in my constituency I knocked on doors in Tallaght, Firhouse, Templeogue, Greenhills etc. and I told people what I wanted to do for them. Much reference has been made to Kingswood and I am sure that the Labour Party leader will refer to it again tonight. I do not believe that the people of Kingswood and rest of the Dublin South-West sent Charlie O'Connor to the Dáil because everything was fine. I believe that the 7,155 good souls in Dublin South-West who voted for me, and I thank them all, sent me here because they wanted a strong advocate. They wanted someone who would raise the relevant issues and do the job and that is what I am doing. I come into the Dáil every day and I am not afraid to talk to Ministers and to debate the issues. I will deal with all the issues without fear or favour.

  There are issues in my constituency, many of which relate to schools. Not a day goes by when I do not receive representations from parents, teachers, school boards of management, as Deputy Cooper-Flynn said, and from pupils. I have received a great deal of mail lately from pupils. I do not have a problem with receiving letters from young people.

  Mr. F. McGrath: The Deputy's party is in power now and he can do something about these issues.

  Mr. O'Connor: I get a little worried when they are encouraged to telephone public representatives and ask us to telephone them back.

  Mr. Stanton: So they should not contact the Deputy at all.

  Mr. O'Connor: That is not a good idea. Anyone who has influence to stop young people doing that should use it.

  Mr. Stanton: They could send an e-mail.

[131]   Mr. O'Connor: There are many issues in my constituency which I raise and will continue to raise with the Minister. The Minister acknowledged that in the midst of heckles from the members of the Labour Party last night. In this day and age every second level school in this State should have a PE hall. Firhouse Community College in my constituency does not have a PE hall and it should have one. There is a need to update the facilities in Glenasmole school. The asbestos roof on Ard Mhuire School, in Belgard in my own parish should be dealt with. The building programme for St. Thomas's national school in Jobstown, which is attended by a number of disadvantaged pupils, should be urgently addressed. Something should be done urgently about its building programme. I want to highlight two specific schools.

  Mr. Stanton: Deputy O'Connor sees how bad things are.

  Mr. O'Connor: The Deputy is putting me off by heckling. If he leaves me I will get through this.

  One of the schools is the Holy Rosary primary school in the still developing area of Ballycragh. The school has been looking for temporary accommodation since 1986 and the authorities have told me if something is not done before September this year it will only be able to take in one junior stream instead of three. That is a challenge. Even in times of constraint we should be able to deal with developing schools.

  I also raise St. Killian's national school in Kingswood as it will be mentioned tonight and there will be much talk of who said what and who wrote to whom.

  Mr. Stanton: The Deputy should come over here.

  Mr. F. McGrath: The Deputy should support the motion.

  Mr. O'Connor: I support St. Killian's and the school knows it.

  Mr. F. McGrath: The Deputy should support the motion.

  Mr. O'Connor: If Deputy McGrath was in a party he would not vote against it. I would ask Members, including Labour Party Members, who have ever voted against their party to hold up their hands. The record will show no hands have gone up because Members do not do so.

  Mr. Stanton: Deputy Killeen did.

  Mr. O'Connor: St. Killian's in Kingswood, Tallaght, has particular needs. Money was provided.

  Mr. Stanton: There are three brave Members present.

[132]   Mr. O'Connor: The school got official letters from Tullamore. Thank God I did not get a letter from a Minister but those commitments should have been kept. This is one of my jobs and I will work with anyone in the House to ensure it is done. St. Killian's national school should be facilitated, as should the other schools I have mentioned in my constituency. I will continue with this work. I will not be threatened or put off. The people sent me here to do a job and I will continue to do it.

  Mr. Finneran: I am glad to compliment the Minister for Education and Science on his excellent work. He was a teacher and has a great understanding of education. He has given long service on local authorities and in the House as a Deputy and Minister. He follows in the footsteps of many others in Fianna Fáil who have been pioneers in developments in education. When the Government completes its full term Deputy Noel Dempsey will have left a positive mark on education. He has my support in this work and he has much to offer, as we will see in years to come.

  Some facts need to be put on the record regarding the Minister's contribution to the schools programme 2003. I thank him for the programme of school development he sanctioned for my constituency this year and I am pleased he gave the go-ahead for three major extensions – which might be considered new schools – in Roxboro, Ballyfeeney and Clooneyquinn in Roscommon. It is a great achievement to have those three schools included and I thank the Minister.

  There is another list which the Opposition never mentions but it should also be put on the record. Scores of schools are renovated under the smaller programmes and three other schools in my constituency benefited from those – Ballintleva, Clooncagh and Fairymount. Knockcroghery was included in a public private partnership and we hope that school goes ahead under the new scheme. The situation was the same last year, when three schools were developed – Summerhill national school got €3.1 million.

  If we look at the overall situation, in 2003, 149 schools under all headings are to be dealt with in the schools programme. That is a sizeable figure in any year. I compare it with five years ago, when there were 42 schools. That is a comparison with 1997 and it is not a fictitious figure.

  Mr. Stagg: That is eight years ago.

  Mr. Finneran: Those figures are available from the Department. It is somewhat rich to castigate the Minister for his programme when others who consider themselves reformers did not deliver the goods when they had the opportunity.

  Mr. Stagg: When they had the misfortune to be in office with Fianna Fáil.

[133]   Mr. Finneran: If the Minister did not appoint 3,690 extra primary teachers since 1997 would we need the extra accommodation?

  Mr. Quinn: What if the children had not been born?

  Mr. Finneran: The Government is a victim of its own success in this area. Almost 2,000 extra secondary teachers have been employed so again we are victims of our own success.

  The post-leaving certificate courses are innovative and are appreciated by people all over the country. Everything that is needed now cannot be delivered in 2003. A multiannual programme is the way forward, as the Minister indicated. I am pleased the Minister has delivered what I asked for my constituency. I compliment him on that. Having been in Government for the last five years, I hope the Fianna Fáil Government of the next five years will contribute to the educational system in a positive way.

  Mr. Killeen: I welcome this debate on the schools building programme and the Minister's forthright address. I commend him in particular for his commitment to a five-year multiannual capital programme he is trying to agree with the Department of Finance.

  He referred in his contribution to the historic difficulties which arose because of underinvestment in education and to the increased number of pupils, teachers and services at various levels. He referred to the figures in 1997 – which was an election year, as Members will remember – which compare unfavourably with the 2003 figures. At that time 30 primary school buildings were under way and a mere 12 second level projects. In 2003, 90 primary schools were recently completed and 85 are currently under way, while there are 36 post-primary schools completed and 38 under construction. There are a further 26 to go to construction later this year. There has been a significant increase in the number of major projects in a short time.

  There is a perception among parents and management at some schools that this motion has the capacity to vote additional funding for the schools building programme. Obviously that impression has been conveyed to them by some means, though they are clearly mistaken. Anyone who thinks the motion has that potential is wrong.

  Mr. Stagg: Not if the motion is accepted.

  Mr. Killeen: Many people would be surprised to realise there is an allocation of €342 million for 2003, which is broadly similar to last year's outturn.

  I welcome the publication of the 2003 primary and post-primary school building programme, which sets out objective criteria for the first time, provides a significant level of information in a transparent manner and puts that information into the public domain. The devolved building [134] initiative which the Minister introduced in this programme has been welcomed by management in small rural schools. It provides for direct funding to a small number of schools initially, but it will eventually become the blueprint in particular for the provision of extensions to smaller and rural schools. It provides for the board of management and local community to have a major input into how the project proceeds. It will be quicker and provide better value for money.

  At last the Department is busy devising standard plans for various school sizes. The Minister indicated in his contribution that he was looking at doing the same for extensions, which would make an enormous difference in the costs of preparing projects. Much of the demand has been driven by the need for accommodation for remedial and resource teachers, as well as the dramatically reduced pupil-teacher ratios in some instances. A previous speaker said there was an increase of 3,690 primary teachers since 1997. The pupil-teacher ratio has gone from 21.7:1 to 18.4:1. This is a dramatic improvement in the area which most benefits students.

  Likewise, there are 1,868 additional second level teachers. Not so long ago I taught in a primary school where there were 82 children divided approximately equally between two teachers. Before I entered the House in 1992, I had never had the wonderful experience of having as a co-worker either a resource or remedial teacher. There have, therefore, been dramatic improvements in the past five or six years in the level of staffing which have naturally put pressure on the building programme.

  There is considerable dissatisfaction and disaffection with the provision of temporary accommodation. While this relates in some instances to delays in providing such accommodation, it is particularly evident with regard to the provision of buildings which are neither durable nor cost efficient in the first instance and extremely expensive to run and maintain subsequently. I am glad the Minister has indicated he is prepared to consider giving management authorities the right to use the money made available to them to provide more durable structures.

  Mr. Gogarty: I will share time with Deputies Morgan, Connolly, Harkin and Finian McGrath.

  An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Mr. Gogarty: I broadly welcome the Labour Party motion, although it is not strong on specifics. A message needs to be sent out loud and clear to the Minister's office, the Government and those watching proceedings on the monitor that schools building projects are a major concern. As a first world country, we have a second rate educational system as far as buildings and several other areas are concerned and a Third World sys[135] tem as far as Gaelscoileanna and Educate Together schools are concerned.

  Mr. S. Power: That is not the view of industry.

  Mr. Gogarty: If I had 20 minutes speaking time, the Deputy and I could banter a little on the issue. However, as I have just five minutes, I will continue.

  Mr. S. Power: The Deputy should stick to facts, not fiction.

  Mr. Gogarty: I represent a constituency with some of the fastest growing areas in the country. As I already indicated, some schools in Clondalkin are badly in need of refurbishment or approval for new building projects. I will focus on my home town of Lucan which is, according to the recent census, the fastest growing town in the country. Lucan has experienced a vast increase in its population and housing, and a significant amount of land has been rezoned. Questions need to be answered about dodgy rezoning decisions but I will not dwell on the issue now. Houses have been built, but matching facilities have been lacking and we are now playing catch-up.

  The possibility of building 10,000 houses on 500 acres of land at Adamstown is being discussed. The Department of Education and Science would be happy if the land at Adamstown were to be built on, provided new schools remained features on a map rather than planning in progress. I hope my Green Party colleague, Fintan McCarthy, will play a role in stopping the proposal.

  I will take as a case study the Griffeen Valley Educate Together school. Realising there was a school crisis, parents in the area got off their backsides and ensured the school was opened. They now have a classroom operating in the scouts den on a temporary basis and want to move forward. Lands set aside for a school off Griffeen Avenue at the time housing estates were built years ago remain unused. The developer of the land, Castelthorne Construction, is willing to lease or sell it to the school. Once again, however, the Department is prevaricating.

  I tabled parliamentary questions on this issue several times last year and more recently in February. As I plan to tackle the Minister on the issue tomorrow by means of a parliamentary question, I will not get into specifics. It appears the Office of Public Works is playing funny games in terms of whether sufficient money is available to finance the leasing of the site. While it may suit the Department to prevaricate, for the parents who, in many cases, have put their child's name down for this school only, the issue at stake is their children's future.

  The matter should not be taken so lightly and put aside until the last minute as it causes stress to parents and major hassle for other overcrowded schools in Lucan. Parents have to put their chil[136] dren's names down for places in other schools which creates a lottery. People who do not belong to the local parish have no chance of a place for their children. There are huge lists for places in Educate Together schools and Gaelscoileanna. For example, Lucan Educate Together has 160 names on its current list, yet Griffeen Valley school has only 40 places available this year. This group of 40 which has received provisional places, and perhaps a few others, will not be able to start in the school until the Department agrees to fund prefabricated buildings on the site owned by Castlethorne Construction.

  There is a broader issue at stake in this regard. If one listens to the “Marian Finucane Show” or representatives of TLC, one finds that the same problems occur throughout the country. Schools are operating in run-down prefabricated buildings, offices and sports centres. This is not acceptable.

  The Green Party proposes that the Minister goes back to his gambling friend, the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, asks for a four year funding package and tells him to forget about public private partnerships. The current allocation of €343 million should be increased to €650 million to play catch-up in terms of building projects. Funding of €1 billion is required for primary schools with a further €1.5 billion needed for secondary schools. Let us not sell parents across the country a cock and bull story. This money is needed and can be found either through borrowing or increased taxation. If the Minister proposed raising taxes to generate the required funding, people would welcome it as they want facilities for their children's schools. I support the motion.

  Mr. Morgan: Sinn Féin supports the motion. Much has been made of the fact that 130,000 people attended the anti-war march in Dublin on 15 February. However, perhaps because it was not centred in Dublin, a national protest involving 140,000 parents, teachers and students in more than 700 primary schools across the Twenty-six Counties has not been given the same attention. That less than a month after its founding Tuismitheoirí agus Teagascóirí Le Chéile can organise a show of anger on this scale is not only a tribute to the organisers, but is an illustration of the level of frustration felt by parents and teachers across the State.

  Teachers and principals are finding that now, in addition to running their schools and managing staff and the curriculum, they must also be architects, chief fundraisers and political activists to meet the needs of their pupils. Parents are finding themselves organising raffles, plays, sponsored walks, cycles and anything else they can think of to purchase with their own money the basic fundamentals required in schools.

  In the Oireachtas canteen just last week, raffle tickets were being sold on behalf of a member of staff of a Government Deputy who was trying to raise money for her child's school. This is per[137] fectly normal. It is how money is raised to buy luxuries and extras for schools, such as roofs, furniture and classrooms.

  Mr. Stagg: Blackboards.

  Mr. Morgan: The decision of the Government not to increase the back to school allowance for primary children is all the more serious when we remember that in addition to uniforms, pens and books, a pupil attending a modern primary school here in the 21st century also needs other things. For example, he or she needs a good supply of quality rat poison. A first aid kit is always useful and a bucket to collect the rain which leaks through the leaking roof is a must for every seven year old attending a school in a working class area.

  I will highlight the cases of two schools in my constituency, one primary and one secondary. Scoil Mhuire Fatima national school in Drogheda was built more than 140 years ago. I have received numerous representations from parents and children who are distraught due to the condition of their school. Parents who were promised a new school in 1998 feel misled and betrayed by the Government about the schools building programme.

  The school is located on the main Dublin to Belfast road. There is only a narrow footpath between this noisy, busy road and the school. There are no parking facilities for parents or teachers. Parents cannot park outside the school to drop off or collect their children. The school is split into two sections and children are forced to walk along the busy Dublin Road to get to the school hall for assembly or physical education classes.

  The building is too small for the number of children attending. Junior and senior infants classes are held in prefabricated buildings constructed in the 1970s and intended as a temporary measure. There are 60 junior infants in one prefabricated building dating from 1971. Parents who themselves attended school in these prefabs in the early 1970s are horrified that 30 years later their own children are forced to attend classes in these same prefabs. Classrooms are so crowded that one cannot walk between desks. The school is a serious fire hazard and does not meet the current building standards regulations. There is a serious danger from faulty electrical wiring. The school urgently needs to be re-wired but because it is a listed building it would have to be evacuated in order for this work to be carried out. Walkways leading to fire exits and the exits themselves are very dangerous. Accidents have occurred during fire drills where small children are forced to negotiate rusty old fire escapes.

  Scoil Uí Mhuirí in Dunleer was promised a replacement school 20 years ago. In March 1985 the Minister for Education stated:

    My Department has approved a proposal to develop Dunleer Vocational School and architectural planning is under way. The project will [138] replace all existing prefabricated accommodation at the school.

The school currently has 14 prefabricated classrooms, one prefabricated staff room and one prefabricated staff toilet. Parents and teachers are angry that they have had to wait so long and they fear that there is no end in sight to their wait. I urge support for the motion and call on the Government to recognise that damage is being done to future generations because of the lack of funding and provision of adequate conditions.

  Mr. Connolly: Too many of our schools are crumbling, crowded and obsolete. Teachers and parents' organisations have been speaking out for years to little avail but now the problem has assumed the dimensions of a national emergency. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a modern classroom equipped with the latest educational technology. Too many pupils – one in four according to recent estimates – attend classes in schools that fail to meet these criteria. If we want our children to learn the skills they need to thrive in the 21st century, they deserve classrooms that indicate the Department of Education and Science regards their future as a priority. Pupils attending substandard schools get the message quickly that in the eyes of the Department they do not matter much and it will not waste much money on them.

  The condition of schools is related to pupil achievement. A growing body of research links classroom achievement and behaviour to the school building, conditions and overcrowding. Studies have demonstrated that achievement is upwards of 10% lower in substandard schools compared to those in good condition. Physical conditions also have positive and negative effects on teachers' morale, sense of personal safety and effectiveness in the classroom. Despair and frustration are common feelings in dilapidated schools in sharp contrast to the feelings of hope and staff commitment evident in schools undergoing renovations and improvements. Poor working conditions result in higher teacher absenteeism, lower morale and effectiveness and reduced job satisfaction.

  One week prior to last year's general election, the Minister for Education and Science published a list of 2,800 schools requiring funding, of which 850 had applied for major funding and 496 received the go-ahead to go to tender. Many of these schools received departmental instructions to appoint architects and quantity surveyors whose joint fees amount to in excess of €50,000 per project. Boards of management have not as yet received €1 to pay for these services. The U-turn subsequently performed by the Department is particularly inconceivable and unforgivable. It would make infinitely more sense for the Department to proceed with its planned projects, in which it has heavily invested, than to leave the plans gather dust until the next general election.

  The Department has reneged on the commitment given prior to the election and its continued [139] neglect of hazardous, unhealthy and unhygienic conditions places both the Minister and the Department firmly in breach of health and safety regulations and liable to prosecution. Another generation of children and teachers deserve better than to be sentenced to 19th century conditions in condemned school premises with outdoor toilets more than 30 metres away reeking of dampness and unstable walls and floors. It is time for the Department to reassure every pupil that it believes they deserve a modern, safe and conducive environment in which to learn. I support the motion.

  Ms Harkin: Yesterday the Minister referred to the motion as a politically motivated debate but everybody knows this is about the day-to-day reality in many of our primary schools and not about politics. The debate is about totally unsafe, inadequate and overcrowded conditions for students and teachers alike. I have been in politics for less than 12 months, yet I have received many representations regarding difficult and, in some cases, impossible conditions in primary schools.

  I could spend my time listing those schools but I will refer only to two cases, which reflect the worst conditions. The first is the Holy Family school in Tubbercurry. Planning permission was granted in 1972, more than 30 years ago, for a school extension. A total of 16 staff, male and female, use one toilet. The school has 130 pupils of whom ten have special needs. Five pupils are refugees while another five are Travellers. Classes are held in the staff room, two classes are held in the entrance hall and the special needs class is held in the infants cloakroom. The flat roof in the girls toilet has fallen in so when it rains, it is flooded. The boiler house is collapsing and the boiler works with a kick and a bang.

  The electrical system has been condemned both by health and safety officers and the ESB. The system was installed in 1956 and the school cannot even get spare parts. A local contribution of €32,000 has been collected and is ready and waiting to be used. The local convent has donated a two acre site for the extension and Tubbercurry national school, which is taking pupils from five new housing estates that have been built in the town over the past two years, is entering its 32nd year on the waiting list.

  Colry national school, a few miles outside Sligo, does not have substandard accommodation, but suffers from chronic overcrowding. The school does not have a general purpose room, office or storage space or a learning support room. Drama, sport and science classes are regularly cancelled. Students are not getting access to the full curriculum and this impacts adversely on their education. A local contribution of €25,000 is also waiting and ready to be used. These two schools reflect the situation throughout Sligo and Leitrim and, whether it is Mohill in south Leitrim [140] or Ard Cairn in south Sligo, the position is the same.

  I do not expect the Minister to pull a rabbit out of a hat at the end of the debate and tell us that all the issues in the motion tabled by the Labour Party, which I support, will be addressed by the end of the school year. However, every year the Minister for Finance puts €1 billion in the national pension reserve fund, yet the census results show that Ireland's age profile is different from that of most European countries. In most EU member states, for every 12 people aged over 50, there are only nine under 20, which means they have an ageing population. The opposite is true in Ireland. For every 12 people aged under 20, there are nine over 50. Ireland, therefore, has a young, wealth creating population. The €1 billion that the Minister for Finance diverts to the pension fund every year, which is losing money, should be reallocated to the primary school building programme.

  Mr. F. McGrath: I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on the motion about the school building programme and the condition of our schools. I welcome the opportunity to address these issues, especially as one who has worked in the primary education sector for more than 20 years in a north inner city Dublin school. I support the motion, even though I am critical of successive Governments in regard to education in general. Successive Governments have tried to get education on the cheap and have ignored the views of teachers, parents and pupils. If one believes in equality, one must support education by funding it and addressing the overcrowded conditions in hundreds of schools. Members of the Government want to go back to the days of the hedge schools. They think that education and decent classrooms are privileges and people should pay extra for them.

  A word of warning is required, however. We can go down that road and damage our schools and education services, just as was done in other countries such as America and Great Britain. Alternatively, we can invest in our schools, improve our pupils and have a strong economy in future. Education is a right and a public service to be guarded and nurtured. If it is damaged or neglected in any way, all of us will lose. What is currently happening in this country regarding education in substandard schools is simply educational vandalism. Cuts in expenditure under the schools building programme are damaging our children's future and constitute an attack on civil rights. Some schools cannot even reach health and safety standards. This is unacceptable.

  In my constituency, excellent schools, such as Gaelscoil Colmcille in Whitehall, have been waiting endlessly for buildings. Others, such as Scoil Mhuire, Griffith Avenue, Marino, cannot get a computer room, even in this IT age. Other schools have a lack of space. In other areas, poorer schools are constantly under pressure, particularly at board of management level, being [141] unable to fund their operations and constantly seeking finance elsewhere. This approach to education seriously undermines morale and is not good enough. Any Minister or Department worth their salt would stand up to the bully boys in the Cabinet, particularly in the Department of Finance, and fight for education. That being said, I accept the reality that we have to do something about these schools. There are now 500 schools on the stalled planning list and that is the reason I support the motion. I support the idea of a supplementary Estimate to address this urgent issue. We need new, radical ideas to raise funds to assist our educational services. This motion is about pupils, schools, teachers and, above all, protecting and defending our education services.

  Mr. Stagg: I wish to share time with Deputies Sherlock, McManus, Upton, Wall and Seán Ryan. I congratulate my colleague, Deputy O'Sullivan, for her presentation of the case for this motion and her speech demanding a realistic building programme for national and secondary schools. Before the last general election in May 2002, Fianna Fáil candidates, with the support and knowledge of the Government and, particularly, the Minister for Education and Science, mounted a country-wide campaign of lies and deceit. They gave firm undertakings, written and oral, with the approval of the Fianna Fáil Minister for Education and Science, that school building programmes would be given top priority – there would be no more delays or snags and money was no problem.

  My constituency differed uniquely from others, however. The principal Fianna Fáil candidate was none other than the outgoing and present Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy. While he was actively planning cuts in the education budget, particularly in the schools building programme, he had his workers actively informing parents, teachers and school boards that their schools would get priority and there were no money problems. They and I believed the story – fools that we were. Kildare North wins the prize for the biggest and most deliberately planned lie of all.

  What was promised and what did we get? St. Laurence's national school required seven classrooms which were promised, with no problem, to go ahead in 2003 – a deliberate lie. The truth is that there is no hope in 2003, no money even for prefabs and 76 children are left without places in September of this year. A new national school in Naas was deemed essential, with a promise to go ahead in 2003. Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats put up a big hoarding to indicate where the school would be built. Spec houses are now being built there – a deliberate lie by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. The truth is that there is no progress in 2003 and no hope for 2004. Scoil Mochua, Celbridge, was promised four new classrooms and a general purpose room – another lie. The truth is there is no [142] chance or hope in 2003, although the project was deemed essential.

  At Rathmore national school, a new building was required to replace a substandard structure. It was promised to go to tender forthwith – another deliberate lie. The truth is that it is now on the back boiler. Scoil na Mainistreach, Celbridge, was promised six new classrooms, four resource rooms, a library, computer room, staff room and office, all deemed essential – another broken promise. The truth is that it is on hold for 2005, 2006 or 2007. Gaelscoil Uí Riada, Kilcock, was promised a new building for 300 pupils, which was deemed essential but there is no hope of progress – yet another lie. Presentation Convent, Maynooth, was promised two classrooms, four resource rooms, a general purpose room, a library and three administration rooms. Although this project is deemed essential, it will have to wait years for progress – another deliberate lie.

  Scoil Chocha Naofa, Kilcock, was the worst case in the constituency, built in 1953 and having four prefabs, one being 20 years old. There is no prediction as to when any work will be done, although it was firmly promised by Fianna Fáil before the election last May – a shameful deceit and lie by Fianna Fáil in that constituency. Tiermoghan national school was promised two classrooms last May but the promise was replaced by two prefabs – another let down, another lie. At Kill national school, where a new school was promised on a greenfield site, there is no sign or hope of progress in the near future. This was the old school of the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy.

  Scoil Phádraig national school, Clane, was promised, at least, prefabs to relieve gross overcrowding, with at least 70 pupils over capacity. There is no sign of any development – another lie. In the case of North Kildare Educate Together, Celbridge, a new school costing €3.5 million was due to open in May of this year, with every mod con promised. However, the Minister refuses to sanction funding for furniture or blackboards – the most stupid lie of all. The 13 schools I have listed are not an exhaustive list. There are others. The parents, teachers and boards of management who believed the Government's lies are now disappointed and angry.

  There is yet another lie – there is no shortage of money. Despite a surplus of €5 billion on our revenue account last year, there was a deliberate decision to cut services and use the revenue account for capital expenditure – a typical accountant's actions. A sum of €500 million per year is being wasted on the savings accounts scheme. The Labour Party now demands that money for jets and chocolates should no longer be a priority but that we spend money on the educational rights of children.

  Mr. Sherlock: The Labour Party and others in Opposition have presented facts in this debate. All we have heard from the Government party, Fianna Fáil, is empty rhetoric. It is incredible that [143] Government party spokespersons could make the type of presentation we have heard from them in the House. I wish to give one relevant example. Last year, 2002, I received a letter from the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, stating that the Office of Public Works had recommended three sites in the Rathcormac area. It is regrettable that the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Ahern, is not present to hear this. The three sites were rejected by the Department of Education and Science, which is now suggesting refurbishment and extension. This is a five-teacher school in a vast developing area. A report in a local newspaper has described Scoil Bhríde, Rathcormac, as having been abandoned in the 2003 programme.

  When the former Deputy Niamh Bhreathnach was Minister for Education, she decided to retain Buttevant community school. In 2002, the Department stated that Buttevant does not have a sewerage scheme and it would not allow the school project to go to tender. Although that issue was sorted out with Cork County Council, the tender process has still not been allowed to proceed. In Burnfort, just outside Mallow, the children had to come out in protest at the situation. At Ballygowan, between Mallow and Mitchelstown, which serves a big catchment area, I witnessed classroom furniture having to be moved out to facilitate music lessons. The degree of congestion in that school would deem it a health and safety hazard.

  Ms McManus: No other issue strikes such a chord with Irish people as that of education. Fianna Fáil has always prided itself on being in touch with the popular mood. Fianna Fáil was the party, after all, that took the great leap forward and introduced free secondary education. With the publication of the 2003 school building programme, it is clear that Fianna Fáil has not only lost touch but there is now a contempt in the leadership of the party for the public and for the public good.

  The last general election was a bought election. It was bought on promises, stories and fabrications. It was bought on lies. Across the country, teachers, parents, principals and boards of management were led a merry dance regarding their projects, their leaking roof, their school extension, their chance to get children walking along corridors instead of walking in the rain when going from classroom to classroom. In my county, primary schools like Moneystown, Lacken, Glendalough, Hollywood, St. Brigid's, Greystones, Gaelscoil Uí Cheadaigh and many others are stuck.

  The most critical case of all is that of Avondale Community College in Rathdrum. A school extension was proposed, an architect employed and an audit of the school was carried out. It was clear that demolition of part of the school had to be carried out and four classrooms decommissioned as a result of fire and safety regu[144] lations. The programme involved two phases of building to meet the needs of the growing school numbers. The programme was submitted and a meeting was held in the Department of Education and Science in February 2002, four months before the election. The VEC was sufficiently assured that the programme would go to plan. Demolition of offices, computer and staff rooms went ahead and the usual shantytown of temporary prefabs was erected.

  The programme aimed to start the building project in October 2002. The Department knew this and while nothing was put in writing, the clear understanding the VEC had was that the programme would proceed accordingly. Were that not the understanding nobody at local level would have proceeded with the demolition of part of the school. They went ahead in good faith, the election was won on bad faith, and ever since Avondale Community College has been denied the sanction to even apply for planning permission. The project is completely stalled. I do not know of any other example where part of a school has been knocked down and an internal wall now stands exposed to the elements, with bewildered staff and students trying to cope as best they can. It is insupportable that this situation should persist, yet it does. A school is partially knocked down, children are housed in prefabs, the staff and principal are without offices, no work is proceeding and a deep, deafening silence emanates from the Department.

  Dr. Upton: I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and raise the concerns of some of the schools in my constituency that have either been dismissed or ignored in the schools building programme. St. Dominic's in Ballyfermot awaits refurbishment, the CBS, James's Street awaits a PE hall, Scoil Mhuire Óg in Crumlin awaits extension and refurbishment while St. Brigid's in The Coombe awaits a new school building. The Presentation Convent, Terenure, awaits an extension and refurbishment and Pearse College, Crumlin, awaits a PE hall. Cherry Orchard nation school awaits a new school building – I have raised this matter on the Adjournment debate. Scoil Treasa, Donore Avenue, awaits an extension and refurbishment and Our Lady of the Wayside in Bluebell failed to crash through the sound barrier and get through to the Department or make any impact, despite a number of health and safety issues.

  Inchicore national school awaits a new school. This school agreed an amicable amalgamation of the boys and girls school in early 2000. Its board had participated in what they considered to be a number of good and productive meetings with Department officials. They were told that an agreement had been arrived at whereby, following the amalgamation of the two schools, there was a commitment that there would be a new school within two years. That was early in 2000, and the teachers and pupils are still in their prefabs and making do with cramped and totally [145] inappropriate conditions. It is now more than three years since they were given a commitment and they do not even feature on the now infamous website.

  Has the Minister visited any of the schools that I have listed since his appointment? Has either of his predecessors visited any of these schools during their terms of office? Most of the schools that I have mentioned are located in areas that are considered to be disadvantaged. The Minister should undertake to visit the schools and meet the teachers, pupils, parents and boards of management and hear for himself what they have to say about the conditions they are operating in daily. I would like him to explain to them why they were all misled and let down and why they are still waiting for some progress on the promised building programme.

  The Government has made much of the fact that disadvantaged areas were to be given preferential treatment, through programmes like RAPID. RAPID turns out to have the same substance as the tooth fairy, or Mary Make Believe. Most of the schools I have referred to are located in areas designated as disadvantaged and it seems that they will suffer the same fate as RAPID.

  I listened to Government spokespersons outlining the great investment or, in their own words, the remarkable expansion of the past five years. Maybe they would like to look up the meanings of “remarkable” and “expansion” and tell me how it refers to the schools building programme.

  Mr. Wall: I am sure any Deputy would appreciate it when a child from his or her constituency would write a letter to them. I have received a number of letters in recent days and alarm bells started to ring when I read them. Rachel Donohue wrote:

    My name is Rachel Donohue, I am 12 years old and I am in sixth class. I think the conditions in the school are appalling. We have one shabby prefab that is old and stuffy, and what makes it worse is that children in classes one and two have to come across the yard in hail, rain or snow just to go to the toilet.

  Stephen Donnellan wrote:

    The children in the prefab are also getting sickness such as asthma. On 1 April 2003, April Fools' Day, the whole school went on a walk at 10 a.m. Third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes put a lot of work into banners and posters. The main slogan was “We're no fools, fund our schools.”

  Niamh Mulvanney wrote:

    The halls are damp and wrecked and some of the ceiling fell down in Mrs Mooney's room. Junior and senior infants desks are all wrecked and parts are falling off. It is unsafe for children. Mrs O'Loughlin is a resource teacher and she has to teach out in the damp, leaky hall. Also, in my classroom, fifth and sixth class, one [146] of the windows is smashed. There have been at least five break-ins in the schools since I have been here. There are also our four legged friends the mice. The school was first built in 1960.

  Sinead Moran wrote:

    Robertstown National School was built in 1960. In 43 years the Government has not done one good thing for us. Forty-three years of cracked ceilings, walls and goalposts are falling down. Our grannies and granddads could have been sitting at our desks. We also have friends, little ones, four legged friends that leave presents to clear up. Robertstown National School had its hopes up in May 2002 when the Government promised a new school and new prefabs but we went back to the way it used to be. In 2003 we got a call saying nothing was going to go ahead. The boys and girls of Robertstown think it is bad and unfair that they only have five toilets with ten teachers having only one toilet between them.

These are some of the letters I received from a particular school. At another meeting I attended, the principal of a school told parents of his grave disappointment that the new school that had been promised before the election would not go ahead. What made it worse is that the school is in my town of Castledermot. While the Government promised a school, there is no sign of a site being purchased, much less the provision of a school.

  I could go on to talk about Nurney etc., but time restraints do not allow me to do so. The disappointment that is felt across the board is reflected in those letters from the unfortunate school children of Robertstown.

  Mr. S. Ryan: Tonight we are addressing the conditions under which our children are being educated. The school building programme is a betrayal of pupils and teachers all over the country who were grossly misled by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats candidates before the general election. The school building programme should make every Government Deputy hang their heads in shame. They were elected on false promises to parents all over the country that work would commence or be completed on their school within weeks of the election. Many of those candidates that are Deputies now do not have the guts to come into the House during this debate to explain their empty promises and the Minister does not have the guts to listen to the contribution that was made by my colleague, Deputy Wall.

  Arising from these reports there is no guarantee that work on a permanent school for St. Cronan's junior school, Ballyboughal national school, St. Joseph's secondary, Rush and Malahide Community School will commence even in 2004. Furthermore the Department does not seem to acknowledge the need for new permanent buildings for St. Cronan's senior national school, Lor[147] etto, Balbriggan, and Scoil An Duinnínigh, Swords. This is scandalous given the conditions under which the children are being educated.

  Since the election we have been told time and again by Ministers that money is now scarce and it is not possible to do all they would like to do, or all they promised. This is an excuse to justify its broken promises. It is totally unacceptable and will not wash with the majority of people who are now keenly aware they were conned and lied to prior to the last general election.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  Mr. S. Ryan: This is a rich country. Allocation of funds relates to choices. What groups of people – I said this before in the House and I have no difficulty saying it again – demanded SSIS accounts? From where did that come? Did the Minister listen to the parents who demanded new schools? Did he listen to those who crammed into buildings all over the country looking for answers regarding provisions for the disabled. He did not.

  The Minister stated last week that the SSIS will cost the State €535 million this year and will cost €2.6 billion over the five year period. We could do a lot with that money if it were allocated to people in need, for schools and children being taught in draught-ridden, rat-infested and over-crowded buildings throughout the country. Priorities must be made.

  The time is coming when the people will look at the promises made and wonder in what sort of country they wish to live. What are our priorities? They are based on social justice and equality. We should not give in to those backing Fianna Fáil, those taxpayers and consultants who are making millions of pounds in profit. When the Minister does not get what he requires from one report he simply commissions another. The time has come to stand up and be counted. I am delighted the people are going to take on the Government once and for all.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science (Miss de Valera): In the very short time available to me, I am glad to come to the House and stand over the record of the Government in its efforts to tackle the educational infrastructural deficit. Never before in our history has so much money been invested in improving educational infrastructure. Acknowledging achievement should not and does not detract from the serious challenges that remain. The House can be fully assured of the Government's commitment to continue its work in this area. No one can deny it is the current Government which possessed the foresight and capacity to take on board the problem which has persisted for many years and has been largely ignored by successive Governments as has been admitted by all sides tonight.

[148]   In 1998, when the current Government parties presented the budget for the first time, substantial capital funding was allocated for school accommodation. Year after year since this unwavering commitment to tackle an acknowledged problem unprecedented levels of funding have been allocated to address this problem. As I have already indicated, the job is not complete and the Government has never attempted to pretend otherwise.

  In his speech to this House last night, the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, indicated he is determined to secure a multi-annual funding envelope that will allow the Government to address identified needs in an effective manner. In addition to securing the necessary funding, the Minister continues to assess new ways of delivering accommodation to schools in a more effective manner. The Minister spoke last night about the delivery of new accommodation in the conventional way, which is slow, and he put forward a number of proposals which will prove extremely useful in the years ahead. The Minister also referred to the fact that the further education sector has also been the recipient of capital funding from the schools building programme. I will refer now to the areas for which I have specific responsibility.

  In the area of further and adult education, there has been an increase of €2.7 million in the adult literacy and community education budget, an increase of €5.7 million for the full year cost of back to education and an increase in investment in adult guidance service with regard to literacy which is a priority for the Government. The figure in that area for 2003 was increased by €1.5 million, amounting in all to a total of €17.9 million available for this year.

  In 1997, there were only 5,000 learners in VEC services, now there are almost 24,000 in over 770 venues. I also have responsibility for PLCs. The number of participants in this area have doubled from 12,000 to more than 24,000 from 1989-90 to 1999-2000. Enrolment for 2001 and 2002 was more than 26,500. All these moneys have come from the one pot.

  I will continue the work which the Government has begun not only in this Administration but over the past five years. We have been consistent in our approach to this problem. I wholeheartedly commend the Government motion before the House. A fair and rational analysis of the fact demonstrates that no Government has done more to improve the conditions of schools. The Government will continue to do so in a fair and transparent manner.

  Mr. Kenny: I wish to share time with Deputy Rabbitte.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

  Mr. Kenny: I thank Deputy Rabbitte for sharing time and thank and congratulate the Labour Party on tabling this motion. Fine Gael supports this motion. I listened with interest to the Mini[149] ster of State, Deputy de Valera, who spoke about the Government being consistent. She said that consistency is one of its hallmarks, but truth certainly is not. On the issue of school buildings—

  Miss de Valera: Deputy Kenny's party was not able to provide €5 billion for educational infrastructure.

  Mr. Kenny: —a litany of promises were made by people who occupied the benches opposite, including people at Cabinet level, but those promises were broken.

  Miss de Valera: Look at the facts.

  An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Kenny, without interruption, please.

  Miss de Valera: I will not embarrass him further.

  Mr. Kenny: An article in the Westmeath Examiner dated 13 April 2002, just before the last election, headed “Minister's good news to Coralstown school deputation” reads:

    The campaign to expedite the provision of a new school building at Coralstown, Kinnegad came to a successful conclusion in recent days, the Westmeath Examiner has learned. It has been announced that the total allocation of funds for the completion of the work has been put in place and that officials from the Department of Education and Science will be in direct contact with the school authorities in relation to the work.

    On Saturday last, April 6th the Minister for Education and Science, Mr. Michael Woods, T.D. met with a deputation from Coralstown school and conveyed the good news to them. The injection of funds for the project will ensure that the school will be open to enrol students in September 2003.

  Mr. S. Ryan: He meant 2009.

  Mr. Kenny: The Government issued a list of major primary school projects approved to go to tender in April 2002. Coralstown has since disappeared from the list. Who is responsible for telling lies to the people in Coralstown?

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  An Ceann Comhairle: I must ask the Deputy not to use the word “lies”. It is unparliamentary language.

  (Interruptions).

  Mr. Kenny: That is what happened. I will withdraw the remark and say what was said is grossly untrue. The editor or sub-editor of the Westmeath Examiner will have to reprint his article.

[150]   Mr. Stagg: I used that word at least 25 times today already.

  Miss de Valera: Deputy Kenny has withdrawn it on Deputy Stagg's behalf.

  Mr. Kenny: This situation also applies at a higher level in regard to Gaelscoil Uí Cheithearrnaigh, Ballinasloe. Just before the election the Taoiseach visited this area, accompanied by a full entourage of Oireachtas Members, and promised people they would shortly have their new school, but nothing has happened. That school has also disappeared from the list. I could mention many other schools around the country such as Timahoe, the College of Further Studies in Cavan, Killeen school, Galmoy school, Curnanool school in Mayo, which I attended, and Swinford school which borrowed money on the strength of recommendations for IT grants. The Government has left a litany of broken promises around the country. If consistency is the hallmark of the Government, truth is not.

  Deputies: Hear, hear.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I thank colleagues on this side of the House who came into the House to support the motion put down by Deputy O'Sullivan, a Labour Party attempt to highlight one of the great scandals of the last general election.

  In her contribution, Deputy Harkin pointed out that this was not about playing politics. This is a political issue that fundamentally affects the lives of so many of our young people. That is the issue and as Deputy O'Sullivan put it, there is no adequate excuse for substandard school buildings in 2003. That is the reason an organisation like Tuismitheoirí-Teageascoirí Le Chéile has come into existence. Its members are concerned that their children get the opportunity in education in a reasonable environment that many of them did not get in less affluent times. The climate has changed in terms of the economic well-being of this country but the position is that some of the schools have not experienced similar change. When Deputy O'Sullivan said there is no adequate excuse for substandard school buildings in 2003, she was quoting from the Fianna Fáil manifesto. That was the heading on the chapter on education – it stated that there was no adequate excuse for substandard buildings.

  We remember what went on in this House coming up to the general election when the then Minister, Deputy Woods, conducted the schools refurbishment programme with a secrecy that would be appropriate to a secret order, but he was not slow to go around the country, as Deputy O'Sullivan said, with a spade on his shoulder turning a sod in any field he was passing where it looked like there was a school nearby.

  Mr. Kenny: And waving a blank cheque.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I want to briefly recap the net points Deputy O'Sullivan made rather than go [151] back over the terms of our motion. She pointed to the fact that there are 12 schools in the primary sector and 14 schools in the post-primary sector in the programme, making a total of 26 schools. A total of €5 million has been allocated on a first come, first served basis to 20 small rural schools. One could say, therefore, that there are 46 schools on the programme but as Deputy O'Sullivan made clear, the work on some of those schools had already started.

  The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, came into the House and made a big play about transparency. The Minister is one of these Fianna Fáil Deputies who always wants to be on the side of the angels. In fairness to the rest of them, they accept, like the rest of us, that they are fallible but the Minister is not. He wants to be on the side of the angels. “Look at the new transparent system I have brought in,” was his song last night and, as Deputy O'Sullivan pointed out, there is nothing transparent about the new system. The 60 schools in category 2, for example, do not know whether they are No. 59 or No. 1 or what that means in terms of the year the work will be done.

  The Minister's script was laden with what I call “mandarin speak”. One would need a translator to divine what he meant, if anything, by the statements he made. I will instance one which relates to this new transparency he has introduced. The previous Minister, Deputy Woods, was congenitally incapable of letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing but the current Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, is bringing in a new era. A school may think it knows where it is in the band and the category it is in – there is a quote at the bottom of one of the pages of the script which qualifies it. It states: “The initial assignment of a project to a particular priority band does not preclude its subsequent reassignment to a different band as circumstances change.” That is worthless and the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, knows it is worthless.

  Over the past two nights I have listened to a litany of disappointed schools. Some of the colleagues on the Fianna Fáil and PD benches, many of whom are now skulking in their offices watching this debate, had their own litany of disappointed schools which are in different categories and varying degrees of deterioration. They read them out as if they were supporting them.

  I might as well take the opportunity, like everyone else, of commenting on some of those schools in my constituency that my friend, Deputy O'Connor, forgot to mention in his contribution. He mentioned schools like Ard Mhuire and others but let me take the example of Ballycragh. Ballycragh is one of the smaller schools in my constituency and it fits into the category of explanation the Minister tried to give when he said that due to geographical considerations, there are many places now freed up in different parts of Dublin and so on. That is of no use to a new area like Ballycragh servicing thousands of houses, [152] with all those families at family formation stage, and which has the highest proportion of non-national children from 23 different countries. The school has three new junior infant classes seeking enrolment this year but can only accommodate one because even the broom closet is adapted as the office of the deputy principal. There is no room to move in the school and they have now been told, unequivocally, that the new classrooms will not proceed. There is no point in telling the people of Ballycragh – most of the mandarins in Marlborough Street do not have the vaguest idea where it is – that the population is decreasing on the northside.

  Deputy O'Connor, in his litany, said that every secondary school should have a sports hall.

  Mr. Quinn: Abbotstown.

  A Deputy: Deputy O'Connor should dream on.

  Mr. Rabbitte: Firhouse Community College has been waiting for its new facility for the past four years. It was told it is on the way, that the JCBs would be moving in. Members should have seen the helter-skelter on the door steps to commit the Fianna Fáil candidates to it. Needless to say, it is gone.

  Deputy O'Connor then went on – I do not want to pick on Deputy O'Connor in particular; he made a stressful speech and I do not want to add to the stress – to refer to Kingswood, where the letters were thrust in the doors every evening to assure the people in the area that the school would be refurbished. He said in his contribution that the letters came from Tullamore. I have one here. Can anyone recognise this good looking, grey-haired man? He does not work in Tullamore.

  An Ceann Comhairle: It is not appropriate to display literature.

  Mr. Rabbitte: I will not display ugly literature, a Cheann Comhairle, but needless to say the writer does not live or work in Tullamore. He was one of the local Fianna Fáil candidates and not only was he happy telling the people that there was tender go-ahead for St. Killian's school, with JCBs moving in in the morning and so on, he said that he viewed the matter so seriously that he also raised it with the Taoiseach. He got it straight from the horse's mouth. The Taoiseach himself would deliver the project.

  The Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, is missing the point. The point is not that we do not have enough money to refurbish every school the same year. We all accept that. The point is the litany of broken promises. They knew that last May at the time of the general election, as they know it now, yet they were successful in electing Deputies in marginal constituencies of which Deputy O'Connor is but an example. They hide when the issues have to be confronted but they are the ones who promised the schools.

[153]   Where will the money come from? How quickly we forget “Champagne Charlie” of Cheltenham fame. Do Members remember what he told the people coming up to the general election? He told them to party on.

  Mr. Howlin: That is right.

  Mr. Rabbitte: He said they would give the people their money back. He said they were not like the Labour Party. They would not tell the people how to spend the money. He told them to party on because they deserved it. He said they were giving them their money back and they will fund any daft scheme we can come up with. The Bertie bowl would have cost £1 billion. It was a Ceausescu-style project, according to Deputy McDowell, who is now a Minister.

  Mr. Cullen: Never.

  Mr. Connaughton: They have to take it now.

  Mr. Rabbitte: Another example is the SSIA scheme which cost €553 million. Can we think up anything else? The national pension reserve fund lost €773 in 2002 – €773 million lost on the Stock Market. There was money for all kinds of issues [154] you could think of, and that is why my friend, Deputy O'Connor, is feeling the pinch now in the shoe. Fianna Fáil Deputies, in the five years they presided over the economy, which was handed over to them by my colleague, Deputy Quinn, were accustomed to going around the country and having petals strewn in their path. There was no problem that could not be fixed with money. Where did the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, get the reputation for fiscal rectitude? He got it in Opposition. During the five years there was no project, no matter how daft, to which he could not have given money.

  The money was frittered away, the fruits of the boom were squandered and we are left with an infrastructural deficit in a variety of areas in Irish life, not least in the schools infrastructure to educate our children, the young people of the future. That is how grim it is.

  That is the issue, the broken promises. There is no point coming in here whinging about changed public finances. Why did each and every one of them promise those matters last May? The letters, counter-signed in this case by the Taoiseach, stated that the JCBs would move in the next day. Now 550 schools are excluded and they deserve everything that comes down on their heads.

  Amendment put.

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Seamus.

    Browne, John.

    Callanan, Joe.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carty, John.

    Cassidy, Donie.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Cullen, Martin.

    Curran, John.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dennehy, John.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Grealish, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McDaid, James.

    McDowell, Michael.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    McGuinness, John.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Mulcahy, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    O'Connor, Charlie.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Batt.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Malley, Fiona.

    O'Malley, Tim.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Smith, Michael.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Wallace, Mary.

    Wilkinson, Ollie.

    Woods, Michael.

[155]

Níl

    Boyle, Dan.

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burton, Joan.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Costello, Joe.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Cuffe, Ciarán.

    Deasy, John.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Durkan, Bernard J.

    English, Damien.

    Enright, Olwyn.

    Fox, Mildred.

    Gilmore, Eamon.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gormley, John.

    Harkin, Marian.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Joe.

    Higgins, Michael D.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Kehoe, Paul.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McCormack, Padraic.

    McGrath, Finian.

[156]     McGrath, Paul.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Gay.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Murphy, Gerard.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O'Dowd, Fergus.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Penrose, Willie.

    Perry, John.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ring, Michael.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Sherlock, Joe.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Upton, Mary.

    Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Moloney; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

  Amendment declared carried.

  

  Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”

    Ahern, Dermot.

    Ahern, Michael.

    Ahern, Noel.

    Andrews, Barry.

    Brady, Johnny.

    Brady, Martin.

    Brennan, Seamus.

    Browne, John.

    Callanan, Joe.

    Callely, Ivor.

    Carty, John.

    Cassidy, Donie.

    Collins, Michael.

    Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

    Coughlan, Mary.

    Cowen, Brian.

    Cregan, John.

    Cullen, Martin.

    Curran, John.

    Davern, Noel.

    de Valera, Síle.

    Dempsey, Noel.

    Dennehy, John.

    Devins, Jimmy.

    Ellis, John.

    Finneran, Michael.

    Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

    Grealish, Noel.

    Hanafin, Mary.

    Haughey, Seán.

    Hoctor, Máire.

    Jacob, Joe.

    Keaveney, Cecilia.

    Kelly, Peter.

    Killeen, Tony.

    Kirk, Seamus.

    Lenihan, Brian.

    Lenihan, Conor.

    McCreevy, Charlie.

    McDaid, James.

    McDowell, Michael.

    McEllistrim, Thomas.

    McGuinness, John.

    Martin, Micheál.

    Moloney, John.

    Moynihan, Donal.

    Moynihan, Michael.

    Mulcahy, Michael.

    Ó Cuív, Éamon.

    O'Connor, Charlie.

    O'Dea, Willie.

    O'Flynn, Noel.

    O'Keeffe, Batt.

    O'Keeffe, Ned.

    O'Malley, Fiona.

    O'Malley, Tim.

    Parlon, Tom.

    Power, Peter.

    Power, Seán.

    Roche, Dick.

    Sexton, Mae.

    Smith, Brendan.

    Smith, Michael.

    Treacy, Noel.

    Wallace, Dan.

    Wallace, Mary.

    Wilkinson, Ollie.

    Woods, Michael.

[157]

Níl

    Broughan, Thomas P.

    Bruton, Richard.

    Burton, Joan.

    Connaughton, Paul.

    Connolly, Paudge.

    Costello, Joe.

    Crawford, Seymour.

    Cuffe, Ciarán.

    Deasy, John.

    Deenihan, Jimmy.

    Durkan, Bernard J.

    English, Damien.

    Enright, Olwyn.

    Fox, Mildred.

    Gilmore, Eamon.

    Gogarty, Paul.

    Gormley, John.

    Harkin, Marian.

    Healy, Seamus.

    Higgins, Joe.

    Higgins, Michael D.

    Howlin, Brendan.

    Kehoe, Paul.

    Kenny, Enda.

    Lynch, Kathleen.

    McCormack, Padraic.

    McGrath, Finian.

[158]     McGrath, Paul.

    McManus, Liz.

    Mitchell, Gay.

    Morgan, Arthur.

    Murphy, Gerard.

    Naughten, Denis.

    Neville, Dan.

    Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

    Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.

    O'Dowd, Fergus.

    O'Shea, Brian.

    O'Sullivan, Jan.

    Pattison, Seamus.

    Penrose, Willie.

    Perry, John.

    Quinn, Ruairí.

    Rabbitte, Pat.

    Ring, Michael.

    Ryan, Seán.

    Sargent, Trevor.

    Sherlock, Joe.

    Shortall, Róisín.

    Stagg, Emmet.

    Stanton, David.

    Timmins, Billy.

    Upton, Mary.

    Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Moloney; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.

  Question declared carried.