Seanad debates

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

7:00 pm

Sheila Terry (Fine Gael)
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I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy de Valera, to the House. The matter I raise refers to land at Beechpark Avenue, Castleknock, a site well known to the Department. We are fortunate that the fields in question have been available to the community for many years and have been managed since 1984 by St. Brigid's GAA club. They are used by five large local primary schools and two community schools which have no playing fields of their own.

A few years ago Castleknock Educate Together school was given permission to construct temporary buildings on the site, a welcome development and, more recently, it was granted permission for a permanent building. When it received permission for temporary buildings, consultations took place with St. Brigid's GAA club. The school has a tenancy agreement, signed during the term in office of the former Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Woods, indicating that it would be built on the site and the club would have use of one adult pitch and two smaller children's pitches. In addition, the sports pitches would be available to the school during school time.

A difficulty has arisen in that the location for the permanent school interferes with the pitches. The community wants both the school and the club to be facilitated. Construction should proceed and the agreement with St. Brigid's GAA club should be honoured. My understanding is that the club should have been accommodated. It is concerned that it will not have use of the full adult pitch and the two children's pitches which the community needs. The club has more than 60 adult and juvenile teams and accommodates teams from local schools in the Blanchardstown and Castleknock areas. Demand for sports pitches is considerable for all the sporting clubs in the general area.

I ask the Minister of State to outline the terms of the agreement between the Department and Castleknock Educate Together school with regard to the layout of the site. I hope she will be able to provide a guarantee that St. Brigid's GAA club will be facilitated and have access to one adult and two children's pitches.

Síle de Valera (Minister of State, Department of Education and Science; Clare, Fianna Fail)
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I thank Senator Terry for the opportunity to outline the proposals of the Department of Education and Science for the Castleknock Educate Together national school and the position on the lands at Beechpark Avenue.

The new school project for the national school is due to proceed to tender and construction within the next 12 to 15 months. It will be a 16 classroom school which will also have a special needs unit. It is envisaged that the construction period will be approximately 12 months from the date the project commences on site. The lands at Beechpark Avenue, owned by the Department of Education and Science, were purchased in order to provide educational facilities. The design for the school means that the Department will be using part of the land traditionally used for playing pitches to build the new school. The design team for the school building project is aware of the St. Brigid's GAA club's use of the land. It has, as best as possible, positioned the new school building to minimise the impact on these playing fields.

The school is designed as a two-storey building. However, road safety concerns for the children demand that the school is placed a certain distance from the main road. The Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Hanafin, and the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, Deputy Brian Lenihan, recently met officials from St. Brigid's GAA club to update them on the school building project. At this meeting the Department proposed a compromise solution by agreeing to move the boundary of the new school 5 m, which it believes will leave enough land to continue accommodating two junior pitches. As previously indicated, the Department intends to put in place a formal legal agreement governing the use of the remaining lands once the school is in place.