Thursday, 31 January 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Army Barracks Closures
I thank Senator Wilson for providing an opportunity to clarify the current position in respect of the former Dún Uí Neill Army barracks in Cavan town.
In March 2012, Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board, CMETB, acquired the former Dún Uí Neill Army barracks with a view to refurbishment and adaptations of the site and buildings which would provide an opportunity for the CMETB to centralise their further education and training service provision and create opportunities for expansion. The barracks site was also earmarked as a permanent home for Cavan College of Further Education, a dedicated co-educational post-leaving certificate, PLC, college operating under the aegis of CMETB. The development of the Dún Uí Neill site will give CMETB an opportunity to centralise PLC and further education provision and eliminate the need for various rented temporary accommodation around Cavan town.
As the Senator is aware, a building project for Cavan College of Further Education is included in the Department's six-year construction programme and CMETB has recently submitted a schedule of accommodation in this regard. In the context of progressing this building project, officials from the Department’s planning and building unit will liaise with the ETB with a view to progressing the project as quickly as possible.
I appreciate that the Senator is clearly looking at the impact on the Border in the context of a "no deal" exit from the European Union by the United Kingdom. I take this opportunity to reiterate that the Government remains firmly of the view that the only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal is to ratify the withdrawal agreement endorsed by the European Council and agreed with the British Government.
The European Council has made it clear that it stands by the withdrawal agreement and that it is not up for renegotiation. The agreement, with its backstop provisions, is the only one on the table that provides the essential legal guarantee to avoid a hard border in any circumstance, as well as protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.
Naturally, we must monitor developments and recent events in the UK Parliament. The Government is not preparing for a hard border. There is no secret plan. Ireland and the European Union are at one on the issue. The Commission has clarified its statement, making it dear that the European Union is determined to do all it can, deal or no deal, to avoid the need for a border and protect the peace process. The Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, repeated these reassurances in a telephone call to the Taoiseach last Thursday.
We will all have our obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland. As a representative from the Border region, the Minister for Education and Skills is acutely aware of the many benefits which have been delivered by the Good Friday Agreement. He will ensure his Department will continue to build on the valuable and extraordinary level of co-operation between education institutions, North and South.
We will still have to work together to ensure we deliver on the shared goal of avoiding the return of a hard border, deal or no deal. We are committed to doing all in our power to ensure that goal is met. It is preferable for us all to resolve the issue now as set out in the withdrawal agreement.
I will have a discussion with the Minister about the building on the site and ask him to meet the Senator directly. I do not have the in-depth local knowledge he has. That would probably be the best option, rather than passing on information through me.