Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I welcome the Minister and thank her for attending in person. It is very important that senior Ministers attend debates here in the Seanad. It is also important for my constituents. On 7 October 2015, a delegation from Scoil Mhuire, Maigh Cuilinn, travelled to Leinster House to meet the then Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O'Sullivan, to deliver a petition. The former Deputy, Derek Nolan, and I met the delegation. There were 4,500 signatures from parents and children in the Moycullen area on this petition. This is my school, which I attended until 1987. This project is, therefore, a very personal issue for me.
The hard work of the community paid off and, on 17 November 2015, Scoil Mhuire was included in a new five-year school-building programme to run from 2016 to 2021. Since then, there has been engagement between the Department and the board of management of Scoil Mhuire, which has done Trojan work over recent years. There was a meeting between the Department's technical team and the senior planner for Galway County Council on 29 September 2016. There has been engagement between the Moycullen Community Development Association and the board of management regarding an alternative site for the new building. The board of management raised funds to purchase this site in Killarainey woods.
The project was in limbo for a number of years while a decision from the Department of Education as to the most appropriate site was awaited. In December 2018, I arranged a meeting with the then Minister, Deputy McHugh, followed by another meeting on 27 March 2019 in Galway. The Department came back to us with concerns regarding the costings related to the alternative site. It then made the decision to build on the existing site of Scoile Mhuire.
As I have said, the debate as to the most appropriate site for a new school has raged on. My own view is that the school should move to a new site and that the existing building should be used as a secondary school for the community. The Department, however, has settled on using the existing site. In May of this year, the school was granted funding for a design team to progress the project, which is very welcome. Over the summer, a new state-of-the-art temporary structure was installed. I acknowledge that and thank the Department for providing that funding. That new structure has been in place since the start of this school term in Autumn. These are huge improvements on the prefabs that have been in place for too long.
Tá frustrachas ann sa pharóiste maidir leis an easpa dul chun cinn ar an togra seo. Tá an scoil ar an liosta le haghaidh foirgneamh nua le cúig bliana anuas. Bhí go leor plé ann maidir leis an suíomh is feiliúnaí. Tá muintir Mhaigh Chuilinn ag lorg cinnteachta maidir leis an togra seo. Mar a dúirt mé, táim ag caint anseo faoi mo sheanscoil ar a bhfreastal mé mar ghasúr óg suas go 1987. Tá brú mór ar an scoil faoi láthair. Tá beagnach 400 páiste ag freastal uirthi. Tá siad ag lorg foirgneamh scoile nua, rud atá ag teastáil agus atá tábhachtach do na múinteoirí agus do pháistí an pharóiste. I know progress has been made but it has been painfully slow. The Department has settled on the existing site. Will the Minister confirm that is the case and that the school is to progress towards the design stage and a planning application soon? Is that still the intention of the Department regarding this very important project for the Moycullen community?
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir as ucht na ceiste agus as ucht deis a thabhairt dom freagra a thabhairt air. I thank Senator Kyne for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the Seanad the current position regarding the major building project for Scoil Mhuire. The brief for this project is to provide a new school with accommodation for the principal plus 16 mainstream classrooms, a two-classroom special educational needs base and ancillary accommodation on the existing site. The brief also allows for the demolition of the existing school building and the removal of all temporary accommodation on site.
In May 2020, the design team was appointed and this project entered architectural planning stage 1, preliminary design, which includes site investigations, the assessment of site suitability and the provision of design options. A briefing meeting was held in July 2020 with representatives from the board of management, the design team, the project manager and Department officials in attendance. Site options and site access were discussed during this briefing meeting and in subsequent interim pre-stage 1 meetings held between the design team, the project manager and Department officials.The board of management and its design team are exploring the best options and will present their preferred option to the Department at the stage 1 stakeholder meeting scheduled for Friday, 18 December 2020. Following the stage 1 meeting, the Department will revert to the board of management of Scoil Mhuire with regard to the future progression of the project.
I thank the Minister for the update. I acknowledge the work of her Department's officials and the board of management over many years. As I said, there is frustration in the community regarding the pace of this project. I acknowledge the funding that was allocated to the design team in May of this year, the new temporary structures provided in September and the further progress that has been made, including the stakeholder meeting scheduled for Friday, 18 December.
However, there is concern that 16 classrooms will provide for a very limited increase in attendance at this school. The Department may be looking for another school very soon. This concern has been expressed to me regarding the choice of site. I do not want to go back over old ground, as the Department has settled on this site and I know the rationale behind that decision. I ask the Minister to engage with her officials to ensure they have plans to cater for an anticipated increase in the community's population. Many will wish to attend this school in the middle of the parish.
I thank the Senator. I appreciate his personal involvement in this project. It is a positive development. From 18 December, we will know a lot more about the preferred option. I will certainly communicate the specific issues the Senator has raised with my officials.