Thursday, 11 June 2009
I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, for taking this Adjournment matter. I raised the situation of Gaelscoil Bharra in Dublin 7 on the Adjournment on a previous occasion and today I propose briefly to outline how the situation has changed in the interim. This gaelscoil, which is extremely successful and popular, has been located in temporary prefabricated buildings for 13 years. Parents in the area it serves are enormously supportive of the school which does a fantastic job of teaching and supporting its pupils.
The management committee of the school has made many efforts to progress its status and to secure its inclusion on the schools building list. Since I last raised this issue in the House some months ago, the school has concluded discussions with Naomh Fionnbarra GAA club which owns the land upon which the prefabricated accommodation is located. The club is supportive of the provision of permanent accommodation for the school on this site. The school management is now in discussions with Dublin City Council on procedures to facilitate the rezoning of the land to allow for the provision of permanent accommodation.
What is hindering the progression of this project is the most important ingredient, namely, approval and funding from the Department of Education and Science to facilitate the delivery of permanent accommodation for the school. I will continue to raise this issue until such time as the Department offers a commitment that it will do all it can to provide a permanent school building on the current site in respect of which great progress has been made in terms of zoning and acquisition. All the stakeholders are supportive of the work taking place.
I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe. I thank the Senator for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the Government's strategy for capital investment in education projects and the current position in regard to future plans for Gaelscoil Bharra, Cabra.
Efforts to modernise facilities in the existing building stock and to respond to emerging needs in areas of rapid population growth represent a significant challenge. Such efforts are a priority for the Minister for Education and Science. The Government has dramatically increased capital investment in the schools building programme to an unprecedented level which reflects its commitment to continue its programme of sustained investment in primary and post-primary schools. This investment will underpin our particular emphasis on the delivery of additional school places in rapidly developing areas while continuing to facilitate our commitment to delivering improvements in the quality of existing primary and post-primary accommodation throughout the State.
The Office of Public Works, which acts on behalf of the Department in regard to site acquisitions generally, was requested to source a greenfield site for this gaelscoil. On foot of advertising, no proposals were received for such a site in the Cabra area. As a result, the issue of providing a permanent school on the existing temporary site then came into focus. To pursue this further, meetings have taken place between the Department and Dublin City Council regarding the potential availability of this site. The Department wrote to the council with a proposal that a lease arrangement be put in place. Officials from the Department met the city council and representatives of the GAA club to discuss the issue of entering into a lease arrangement with the council which in time will require the GAA club to surrender its interest on some of the lands required for a building project.
In February 2009, Department officials met separately representatives of Naomh Fionnbarra GAA club to discuss three potential design options to allow for the provision of an eight-classroom school on the site. The club responded by way of letter in March 2009 indicating its preferred design option based on the options presented by the Department and highlighting its concerns that car parking for its members and the school's teaching staff be addressed. On foot of this, the Department wrote to Dublin City Council advising it of the design option favoured by the GAA club and requested the council to consider a technical assessment of the site incorporating the views of the GAA. At the end of May 2009, the Department received Dublin City Council's observations on the proposed design and these are being examined. The Department will contact Naomh Fionnbarra GAA club when this exercise is completed.
The further progression of the acquisition of this site and the accompanying building project will be considered in the context of the capital budget available to the Department for school buildings generally. I thank the Senator once again for affording me the opportunity to outline to the House the current position in regard to future plans for Gaelscoil Bharra in Cabra.
I thank the Minister of State for his response which has provided an up-to-date summary of the current situation. However, it included the ominous phrase that progress will be dependent on the "capital budget available to the Department for school buildings generally". I will continue to raise this matter here and elsewhere to ensure the project is steered to a conclusion.