Wednesday, 19 December 2007
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Carey, for agreeing to take this matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Hanafin. I will dispense with the usual preamble because the Minister is more than aware of the issues surrounding Seamount College in Kinvara. I thank her for her commitment in May to provide a second co-educational school in Kinvara with the proviso that this would take place only if the Sisters of Mercy agreed to take an intake of students in September 2007. The sisters very kindly did so. The sisters may continue to do so if they see serious progress in the development of a new school. My concern and that of others is that unless the sisters see tangible progress on the provision of a new school in the very near future they may not be willing to take an intake of students next September.
I understand comprehensive and in-depth research carried out both by a local group and by departmental officials concludes there is a very real need for a new second level facility to serve south Galway in the near future. Kinvara has a long tradition of providing a very high standard of second level education. Geographically it is very well placed to serve the south Galway region. A site has been identified by the local community and preliminary agreement has been reached on its acquisition. I respectfully ask the Minister to liaise with her officials to begin immediately the process of providing a new school so that it will be patently obvious to all, including the Sisters of Mercy, that a new second level school will be in place in Kinvara by 2012.
Pat Carey (Minister of State with special responsibility for Drugs Strategy and Community Affairs, Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs; Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for raising the matter. I am replying on behalf of the Minister for Education and Science. I welcome this opportunity to outline the position. Even I know the circumstances of Kinvara at this stage.
On the 16 May 2007, the Minister for Education and Science announced the provision of a new second level school for the Kinvara area. This decision was and remains predicated on the Mercy Order, as trustees of Seamount College, accepting first year students each year until the end of the 2011-12 school year. I wish to acknowledge that the trustees accepted first year students this September and they have also decided to accept first year students in 2008 and 2009.
The commission on school accommodation conducted a survey on the identification of accommodation needs in the south Galway area, including the position relating to provision in Kinvara. This survey has recently been completed and the Minister will receive a copy by the end of this week. However, the Senator will appreciate planning for a new school involves a number of processes which can take some time to complete, most notably the acquisition of a suitable site, the design of a building, the grant of planning permission, the seeking of tenders and construction. Many of these factors are outside the direct control of the Department of Education and Science.
I again thank Senator Cannon for raising the matter and I will bring his concerns to the attention of the Minister.