Dáil debates

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Workplace Ventilation (Covid-19) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


10:52 am

Photo of Pat BuckleyPat Buckley (Cork East, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I will take a slightly different angle on this issue. A principal recently stated:

Not only are school leaders asked to be 'Public Health', magically create subs out of fresh air we now are asked to ensure all pupils from 3rd class up wear masks? This is also not law? Schools are now caught in the crossfire once again. Colleagues in other schools have received vicious emails already warning schools not to implement this.

(Yesterday we had 16 staff members absent, we were one staff member away from closing a class, today 12 staff members and tomorrow it will already be 13).

The faces of my work colleagues say enough. They are drained, broken and deflated.

I listened to the other speakers on this issue. They are right. It is ludicrous that the Government had more than two years to plan for this and for HEPA air filters. Children are being expected to sit in school with the windows wide open and the heating on, or possibly not on because the school cannot afford it. The Government is pitting parents against pupils and principals and vice versa.It is victimising children. Those who have will be segregated from those who have not. Children can be vicious at times. This issue will be at the root of many instances of bullying in schools.

Many parents have contacted me in the past two days. They are dumbfounded. In my area of east Cork, instances have been reported of children not being allowed to wear extra clothing in their classrooms. They had to wear the school uniform. That has been a strict rule in certain schools. That causes problems.

The Government needs to act with urgency. I urge it to take the common-sense approach and get HEPA filters into classrooms. Let us close school windows again. Please God, let us preserve everything and go back to a small bit of normality. There are many young children who will not have the capability to wear a mask because of a medical condition. That will cause additional strain. I urgently appeal to the Government to do the right thing and the common-sense thing, which is to start putting in air filters and closing windows. Let children get on with school, let parents get on with life and let teachers and principals get on with teaching.


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