Seanad debates

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


1:00 pm

Photo of Fiona O'LoughlinFiona O'Loughlin (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I will take this opportunity to wish the President a very speedy recovery. As we know, he will be in hospital until Thursday. It is fair to say that he has solidified his role at the heart of Irish public life. Many of us are looking forward to seeing him back in Áras an Uachtaráin, continuing to deliver for us as Head of State. Having a parent unwell in hospital is not an easy thing.Many of us have had that experience. It is particularly difficult when someone is high profile. We are thinking of our colleague, Senator Higgins, at this time.

I would like to pay tribute to somebody who was a very formative influence in my life, former councillor John O'Neill, who was buried yesterday. John spent 30 years in public life as a Newbridge town commissioner. As a Kildare county councillor he was mayor on a number of occasions. He was a very decent and honourable person and someone of the highest integrity. He was a very strong community man for his town of Newbridge. He had a huge love of sport. He played on the Newbridge Sarsfields team in the 1950s which, famously, won three county championships in a row. John was utterly devoted to his late wife, Betty, his late daughter, Fiona, and his son, Kieran, Kieran's wife Maggie and their two sons, Jonathan and Dane. I express to them our deepest sympathies. Not too many have three guards of honour at their funeral, but John had that yesterday, from Sarsfields, from the local coursing club and from the Fianna Fáil Party. It was an absolute pleasure to be in the guard of honour for John. It is important to mention him here today.

I also want to mention that a meeting of the education committee was held this morning. We met Down Syndrome Ireland, AsIAm and Inclusion Ireland regarding the new special education teacher, SET, allocation. There is a lot of confusion and contradiction but there is clarity when people know they will lose hours and teachers. I visited St. Patrick's Boys National School, Rathangan, yesterday, where five hours have been lost and because of that, the school is down an important and valued teacher for special education. I believe there should be a pause on this decision. This should not be about education alone because children's disability network teams, CDNTs, and assessment of needs are important. The proposed new system would be based on STEM results for children in second class around numeracy and literacy. What happens in the four years before children get to second class, in terms of assessment, if complex needs are discovered? Many children may do well in literacy and numeracy but may have other additional needs. They will be forgotten about. I call for a pause on this proposal at this point in time.


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