Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Will the Minister for Education and Science immediately earmark a three-acre site on the Tipperary institute campus on the Frank Drohan Road in Clonmel, which has been identified as the preferred option by the Office of Public Works for the gaelscoil site?
Parents, teachers and pupils in Gaelscoil Chluain Meala are frustrated with the long delay in identifying a site for a new school. The school was founded on a temporary basis in 1994 and received permanent recognition in 1995. When it began, there were approximately 41 pupils and there are now approximately 240 pupils. At the time, South Tipperary County Council made available the old engineering offices, as we called them, in Irishtown, Clonmel.
While everyone was happy to have the building, it was provided on the basis that it was a temporary arrangement for a small school. The building was founded as a school in 1830 but has seen various uses since, including the county engineering offices for south County Tipperary. No one considered the gaelscoil would still be there 12 years later with no site in view. It is an historic building, but it does not conform with the needs of Gaelscoil Chluain Meala.
The parents, teachers, pupils and community are urging the Minister to earmark a site, as they believe the quest for a site has gone on for too long. The building is old, inadequate and dangerous. A recently completed whole-school evaluation states: "Moladh don bhoird dul i dteagmháil leis an Roinn láithreach maidir le cabhair a lorg chun an leath den díon nár deisíodh sa bhliain 2001 a dheisiú anois".
I thank the Ceann Comhairle for providing the opportunity to discuss this matter, which has been an issue for a considerable time. As a member of the county council 12 years ago, I remember its decision on whether the building would be knocked or left to the gaelscoil for a year or two. The council voted on the issue.
We have been waiting for an alternative site for 12 years. It is unrealistic to expect anyone to wait that length of time. I do not know what the Minister of State will say in her reply, but I urge her to listen to our comments. This matter has been ongoing for 12 years. It was the first gaelscoil in the county, but more have mushroomed, including beautiful new buildings opened by the Minister for Education and Science while Clonmel has been left on the long finger.
If the Minister of State's answer is not positive, will she explain the matter to her superior? This is the longest saga of any gaelscoil and is unfair. There is agreement across the different parties involved that the site should be provided. It is for the Department to make a move. I impress on the Minister of State the need to do something to get the project moving.
I thank the Deputies for affording me the opportunity to outline the proposals of the Department of Education and Science in respect of the provision of a new facility for Gaelscoil Chluain Meala in Clonmel, County Tipperary.
As the Deputies have said, the school opened in 1994 with provisional recognition and was granted permanent recognition in November 1995. Enrolments for the school year 2005-06 totals 211 pupils. The school is currently occupying a former school building rented from South Tipperary County Council. The cost of site and schoolroom rental is grant aided by the Department of Education and Science at the rate of 95%.
The property management section of the Office of Public Works, which purchases sites for new schools on behalf of the Department of Education and Science, was requested to explore the possibility of acquiring a site for the school. Following an advertisement placed by the OPW seeking proposals of possible sites, a number of responses were received. Six sites have been visited and their technical suitability as a location for the gaelscoil was considered.
The preferred location for the new school development is a three-acre site on the existing Tipperary Rural and Business Institute site, which is in the ownership of Tipperary Rural and Business Development Institute Limited. However, the TRDBI has proposed to the Department of Education and Science that its campus in Clonmel be relocated to a largescale technology park. Approval from the Department of Education and Science to this relocation proposal is conditional on, inter alia, the institute assisting the Department in the matter of the provision of a site for the gaelscoil.
Expressions of interest were sought by TRDBI in June 2005 from private sector property developers to determine what exactly could be provided at the technology park in exchange for the institute's current property in Clonmel. The expressions of interest sought required the incorporation of a suitable site for the gaelscoil on the current campus or on an alternative site approved by the Department of Education and Science and the Office of Public Works. The expressions of interest received by TRDBI are currently being evaluated.
Having regard to the process under way in TRDBI and the ownership of the site, it is not appropriate for me to earmark a site for the gaelscoil on the TRDBI site. When a firm decision on the future of the TRDBI site in Clonmel is made, the details of the availability of a site for the gaelscoil can be confirmed.
Meanwhile the Department of Education and Science has requested the property management section of the Office of Public Works to revisit the other remaining site options to clarify their availability and suitability.
I assure the Deputies that the permanent accommodation needs of this school are being addressed and that the provision of a permanent building for the school will be progressed in the context of the school buildings and modernisation programme when a suitable site has been acquired.
I thank Deputy Healy and Deputy Hayes again for raising this matter.