Thursday, 21 May 2020
Covid-19 (Taoiseach): Statements
Leo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael)
One of the things that other jurisdictions have done differently, and that we may have done differently if we had known everything that we know now, is that they did not fully close schools. In Northern Ireland and certain other parts of Europe, schools were not fully closed down but, rather, kept open for a certain number of essential workers' children and those with particular special needs. If we were to do this all over again, the advice from NPHET might be different and we might keep schools open in some way. That is hindsight. Looking ahead, the Government has a particular concern regarding children with special educational needs, autism, intellectual disabilities, behavioural problems or child protection issues who have now been at home for a very long time and really need educational input. I would love us to be in a position to open special schools or special units in some way before September if at all possible. That would require the engagement and co-operation of the public health authorities and the various unions involved. It is not the most straightforward process. We are giving priority to July provision and seeing if we can have enhanced, extended or other July provision in some way such that we can provide something for those children, perhaps not in June, which is not too far away, but maybe in July and August.
That engagement has started but we will need the co-operation of all of the partners - the unions in particular - in getting that over the line and agreement from the public health authorities as well.