Seanad debates

Tuesday, 26 September 2023

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

School Transport

1:00 pm

Photo of Tim LombardTim Lombard (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

The Minister of State is more than welcome to the Chamber. I advocate on behalf of nearly 65 students living in my area who feel abandoned by the State regarding school transportation. They come from places such as Riverstick, Belgooly, Minane Bridge, Ballinhassig, Dunderrow, Ardfield, Peddler's Cross, Aghyohil, Castletown Kinneigh and Bandon. They are all at a crossroads waiting to know whether a school bus will turn up, which it will not. They feel very frustrated that they have been in this predicament year on year. Some have qualified for the bus one year but have then been taken off it and vice versa. It has been changed continuously.

We have heard about the 132,000 people who are getting school transportation. When people in my area hear that figure, it drives them daft altogether to think they are being left behind. We have managed to cater for 132,000 but we still have no places for these children. Their parents are hard-working people. They are looking for the opportunity to live their daily lives, educate their children and work to maintain their houses and what they are doing regarding their standard of living. It is deeply frustrating that the majority of these families believe they are entitled to school transport because of the initiative brought forward by the Minister for Education, Deputy Foley, in September 2021, when she introduced the temporary alleviation measures. We need clarity on those measures. There are students who qualify under that. They are within the appropriate time and distance, they attend the second nearest school, they pay on time, and they have gone through the process. However, because they are on the temporary alleviation measures list, some will get transport and some will not. In Ballinhassig, nine students got it while the rest did not qualify. Five students in Ardfield qualified, but were told it was not a sufficient number.

I read the criteria inside out and outside in. Nowhere has it come up that a figure for the temporary alleviation measures is required. We have never come up with that figure yet Bus Éireann stated that five students is not good enough. Three students at Laragh National School are in the same situation. There are two students at Peddler's Cross and four at Minane Bridge, who all qualify and are perfect for that measure the Minister announced, but they will not get the bus. I have written to the Minister, the Department and everyone. Nobody will tell me the figure. Nobody will come back and tell me where the figure is in respect of this measure.

We need clarity for these families who feel totally abandoned. A little latitude has to be put in place. A family based in Kinsale, and you could not make this up, are 4.77 km away from the school. They need to be 4.8 km. If the bus parks where the bus park is located at the school they are over 4.8 km, but Bus Éireann will not allow it to park there. You could not make it up. The family has appealed it and will win it on appeal. I looked up the planning permission for the school; buses must park at the bus stop and not outside the entrance, but for some reason Bus Éireann has a different view from Cork County Council regarding the planning of the school. They are another family left by the State.This is a huge issue, and I am not getting political; it really is. Families are trying to live their lives and they cannot because we do not get clarity around issues regarding temporary alleviation measures and how Bus Éireann is conducting its patrols with regard to issues about the length of roads. It is not working at the moment.

I appreciate that the Minister is in Cabinet this morning and I really appreciate the Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, coming to the House today but this is the biggest issue in my part of the world. Families feel abandoned and we need to get clarity on loads of issues regarding school transportation.


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