Wednesday, 14 September 2022
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank Senator Cummins. It is worthwhile to outline the progress that has been made with the campus expansion because sometimes that can be overlooked. Five steps have had to be gone through. The first step involved a recognition by myself, by my Department and by the Government, in agreeing with the position of the Senator and other Oireachtas colleagues, that we needed to expand the footprint in Waterford. That step is in place. Setting aside funding to make that happen is in place. The second step was the business case. In other words, Waterford Institute of Technology, which is now SETU, put forward a very detailed comprehensive preliminary business case with projections, analysis and all of that. I thank them for that work. The third step was the carrying out of the report - an independent analysis of the situation from perspective of the taxpayer and the Department - which has gone to the HEA. The fourth step involved my Department receiving a submission from the HEA. We now have that. The fifth step, which is where we are now, involves my Department engaging with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the report and on a potential mandate for negotiation. If anybody in Waterford wishes for whatever reason to suggest that there is any sort of lacuna or vacuum here, factually it does not stack up. Designation day was May. We are standing here in September having gone through five steps. I am saying that I want to see the engagement taking place as quickly as possible. Obviously the budget has to be the first, second and third priority for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and my Department now. However, I would like to see intensive engagement between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform towards the end of this month to try to move this project forward as quickly as possible.