Wednesday, 1 December 2021
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
The Minister cannot stand here and tell us it is a public health measure and that is just the way it goes. She has said a practical approach is expected over the next day or two. What kind of leadership is that? What kind of certainty is that? What legal basis is there for this? What happens if somebody comes to the school gate and refuses for their child to wear a mask. What does the principal do then? Does the Minister what principals should do in such circumstances, and has she informed them of this in the 16 hours given for them to prepare for this measure? We all know we are trying to protect people from getting sick, hospitalised and ending up in ICU. We know what the point is. Government Members were the ones telling us for the last 18 months that schools were safe while school communities, principals and managers were screaming out for support. I think the Department is depending on the goodwill of principals, who are hardwired to ensure they defend the reputation of their schools at all costs in the school community, to ensure there are not high anxiety levels among their student body or parent body and to keep the show on the road, rather than telling the truth of what is happening.
The Department expects a practical approach over the next day or two. There is no understanding of legal implications, no reference to the potential for HEPA filters to be put in schools and no understanding of the heating bills that schools are facing. There was no leadership from the Minister last night. Please do not throw it back at us and say we are somehow not adhering to public health advice when the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, was sketchy on that last night. Will the Minister, Deputy Foley, take the opportunity to show some leadership and give some guidance to schools, school communities and principals who are doing their best to deal with anxious children, who the Minister has let down in this regard? What they needed last night was a voice of compassion, care and leadership from the political face of education in Ireland.