Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Further and Higher Education

9:30 pm

Photo of Niamh SmythNiamh Smyth (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I am not disappointed by the Minister of State's presence but by the fact that the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science is not here. The Minister of State will have heard me mention the urgent need for a new building for Cavan Institute on many occasions in this Chamber.

I am at a loss to understand why we have not seen movement from the Department on this. This is a college that has exceeded itself and that is a victim of its success. It was built for fewer than 500 students in 2006 and now there are over 1,100 students attending it. The college has gone above and beyond the call of duty in being relentless in its efforts to attract students and to do so by providing a broad spectrum of courses. The facilities it has are wonderful but it needs a greenfield site. This building has been on the building's list since 2015. It is not the only college of its kind; I have done some research and there are other education and training boards, ETBs, with the same type of problems. There is no logical reason, when it has been approved and sanctioned and when due diligence has taken place, that it has not been given the green light.

I appreciate that the Minister was in Cavan some months ago and announced modular buildings would be provided. In my mind modular buildings are temporary and they do not provide the longevity, continuity and stability that a college and its staff need for their future. I know there is a push in the Department for further education and training, FET, colleges around the country and this is an ideal location for such a college. I do not want to harp on about this but it has been on the buildings list from 2015 until this point and not a sod has been turned. The college does not need to look for a site; it is on a greenfield site which is ideally located in the centre of the town. There is nothing to stop this project except commitment from the Government to do this.

I did a little exercise because I know that this college, as I said, far surpasses its capacity. It is in a position where it is having to rent buildings around Cavan town just to be able to provide the facilities that it needs. Having done a tot on four of the premises that are being rented, I have to tell the Minister of State the amount being spent is staggering. Almost half a million euro per annum is being spent to rent temporary facilities. That has been going on for a number of years.

We are at a point where we need a commitment, not only because it is there in black and white that this building has been approved but because we need a start date. We need to know when this new building will be started and, more importantly, when it will be finished. The staff deserve it. The principal deserves it. The deputy principals deserve it. The drive and enthusiasm within that college is second to none. They are exemplary in the courses that they provide. As I said, it has far exceeded its capacity to deliver but it is doing it, and in rented premises. As I have alluded to, one of the buildings is costing €250,000. Another is €55,000 and another is €85,000. That is all rent that could be so much better used in terms of having a permanent facility.

I hope that the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science has given the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, some good news to bring back to me tonight.


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