Dáil debates

Thursday, 3 February 2005

Priority Questions.

Site Acquisitions.

3:00 pm

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
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Question 3: To ask the Minister for Education and Science the stance which her Department is taking in connection with the allocation of a permanent building or building site to a school (details supplied) in County Mayo; if the case of this school will be prioritised to ensure the continuation of it; if the long-term continuation of this school is guaranteed; if the continuation of this school is a priority within her Department; when this school will have a permanent location; the plans for this school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [3187/05]

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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The school referred to by the Deputy opened in September 1996 with provisional recognition and was granted permanent recognition in 2000. My Department provides grant aid towards the rental of temporary accommodation for the school at a rate of 95% of the rental costs.

The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of my Department in regard to site acquisitions generally, is exploring the possibility of acquiring a site for the school referred to by the Deputy. Due to commercial sensitivities, I am unable to comment further on specific site acquisitions. The permanent accommodation needs of this school are being addressed as expeditiously as possible and the provision of a permanent building for the school will be progressed when a site has been acquired.

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
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Does the Minister agree that the current situation is desperate for the 198 pupils and nine teachers involved, a number which continues to grow? Does she agree that the school, which already has 12 children on the waiting list for the 2005-06 school year, has already been forced to move three times? It already consists of five second-hand pre-fab buildings. The school has received notice to quit these buildings by 2006 and the lease is non-renewable. Does the Minister agree that 200 pupils will be on the street in 15 months' time unless alternative accommodation is provided?

I received a reply to a question last December that the OPW was examining the site. Does the Minister agree that the OPW was asked in 2001 to examine the site and it decided in 2004 that it was not successful? Does she agree that this is a problematic situation for the school which is in a highly populated area and which received permanent recognition from the Department? A report on the health and safety aspects, which the board of management commissioned, is shocking. The five pre-fab buildings were bought second-hand six years ago and suffer dry rot and wet rot. Given all this and the eviction notice to the school, the Minister will need to be more specific in her reply to the good people of Westport. Is she saying that this is not a priority situation and, if not, why not?

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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Tá Gaelscoil na Cruaiche tar éis fás from 30 pupils initially to 183 as and from September 2004. Gan aon amhras, in áit mar sin, nuair a bhíonn gá le foirgneamh, tógaimid é. However, we cannot erect the building until the site is available. The Department is actively pursuing a site to ensure the needs of the school are met. I announced in a recent building programme 122 different projects. This did not include schools for which we did not have a site, because obviously these could not be listed. When sites become available, these schools will be included in the programme.

Jerry Cowley (Mayo, Independent)
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There must be a solution to the problem within the next 15 months. Will the problem definitely be sorted out in 2005?

Photo of Mary HanafinMary Hanafin (Minister, Department of Education and Science; Dún Laoghaire, Fianna Fail)
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I am conscious of the fact that the lease is due to expire on 30 May 2006. As a result, we are anxious to ensure that the site difficulties can be addressed.