Seanad Éireann - Volume 150 - 12 March, 1997
Adjournment Matters. - Cloontuskert (Roscommon) School.
Mr. Finneran Mr. Finneran
Mr. Finneran: This motion asks the Minister for Education to sanction and provide the necessary funds for the construction of a new national school at Cloontuskert, County Roscommon. The existing school facilities at Cloontuskert are totally inadequate. The whole community, including teachers, parents and pupils, has been pressing the case for a new school there for some time. I have been supporting their case for over three years and I wish to outline what has occurred to date. The local community has provided £17,000 from its own efforts for the purchase of a site. The local contribution amounted to £25,000. All  that was raised by the local community in Cloontuskert. The community has done its part and has received planning permission from Roscommon County Council for a new school.
The problem is that the Minister for Education or the Department has not yet sanctioned funds to construct the school. The case for a new school is a good one. The existing school is totally inadequate. It has, in fact, been condemned by a number of bodies, including the Western Health Board, the fire officer of Roscommon County Council and the INTO representative. The INTO's representative indicated the school had possibly the worst conditions he had ever inspected. The children of Cloontuskert are not being taught in a dedicated school unit but in a building that was originally provided for shop units. Later on it was converted for use as a school, for which purpose it has been used every since. The classrooms are approximately two thirds of the size they should be. There is no hot water in the school, which has only outdoor toilets, and there is no green area for children to play in. The conditions at Cloontuskert national school are antediluvian and totally unacceptable in 1997. The Minister should provide the necessary funds this year for the construction of a new school.
Conditions at the school have received national attention. We had an open day recently to which all public representatives and the media were invited. The country at large saw the conditions under which pupils worked at Cloontuskert national school on a television programme. Everyone who saw the programme agreed the conditions were deplorable. Parents and teachers have now come to the end of their tether. I am told that in the near future children will be withdrawn from the school. The INTO has already balloted its members to take strike action, but that has been put in abeyance.
I am asking the Minister again to come to the assistance of parents, pupils and teachers at Cloontuskert national school. Surely in 1997 it is totally inappropriate that people should have to teach or be taught in such conditions. Two outside cubicles serve as toilet facilities for 60 pupils and teachers. That is not only out of date, it constitutes a health hazard.
I do not wish to go over the facts of the case again because enough has already been said. All the relevant authorities, including the health board, the county council and the INTO, have decided that the school is inappropriate. I have personally inspected the school premises and I was amazed that any teachers could attempt to educate in the conditions I saw there.
Hopefully, the Minister will have some good news that can be transmitted to the community at Cloontuskert so that they can in the near future have a proper facility for their children's education. I hope the Minister will say that money will be provided in 1997 for the construction of a new national school at Cloontuskert, County Roscommon.
Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor) Mervyn Taylor
 Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor): I wish to outline to the House, on behalf of the Minister for Education, the current position regarding Cloontuskert national school, Lanesboro, County Longford. At present the school has a staffing level of a principal and three assistant teachers, one of whom holds a temporary concessionary post. The school's current enrolment is 79 pupils.
The Minister is aware that the school's existing accommodation, comprising four classrooms with detached toilets, is in poor condition. The classrooms are considered undersized by present standards. The Minister knows the school is in urgent need of refurbishment and it is for this reason that a building project at the school was included in the Department's 1995 capital programme for planning. The plans provide for a new three classroom school with appropriate ancillary accommodation. The inclusion of the project on the 1995 programme should be seen as the beginning of a process involving detailed examination of enrolment projections, assessment of the existing accommodation, preparation of contract documentation, invitation of tenders and the award and execution of a contract.
The current position on the project is that planning permission has been secured and the contract documentation required to invite tenders has been prepared. An advertisement inviting contractors and sub-contractors who wish to be included on the pre-qualification tender list for the project was placed in national and local newspapers in the week ending 24 January 1997. The closing date for receipt of applications was Friday, 28 February 1997. All applications received will be considered and a list of suitable tenderers will be drawn up.
Due to budgetary constraints the Minister is not in a position to indicate when tenders might be invited for the project. Recently, she approved 27 national school projects for tender and contract stages. However, it was not possible to include all deserving projects in the first round of projects which were allowed to proceed to tender stage.
The Minister will be keeping expenditure on the primary school building programme under review during the year. She expects to release a number of additional projects to tender and contract on a phased basis later this year. The number of projects to be released will be contingent on the results of the tender process for the 27 projects already announced and the overall funding position at the time. The school management will be kept informed of developments.
I can assure the Senator that every effort will be made to ensure that the project is progressed as quickly as possible and I thank him again for giving me the opportunity of outlining the current position.
Mr. Finneran Mr. Finneran
Mr. Finneran: I thank the Minister for his reply. May I point out that it is Cloontuskert,  County Roscommon, and not County Longford as in the Minister's brief.
Seanad Éireann 150 Adjournment Matters. Cloontuskert (Roscommon) School.