I asked the Minister for Finance today the number of tenders required by the Office of Public Works as a minimum before consideration is given to those received. Eventually I was told consideration is given to one tender. Most people would look for another tender so I think that, although it may be given to one, it is unlikely. When further questioned the Parliamentary Secretary did not give an actual number but said that if a number of tenders were in and he looked for more he would be doing so for the good of the people and to save money. That may be but I doubt it very much. I then brought up the question of the schools in Bonnybrook which were not proceeded with quickly enough.
I am not sure whether I was told on the telephone by the Office of Public Works or by the Department of Education that they had three tenders in and that was not sufficient, they were waiting for five. I could not swear to that but, at a meeting of the residents shortly afterwards, the manager, a priest, said that he was in touch with the Department of Education and word had come from the Office of Public Works that they only had three tenders and would not go ahead until they had five.
This was said at a meeting attended by from 150 to 200 people and by Deputies from the various parties. I believe this was done by the Office of Public Works to delay the building of these schools and also to delay payment for these schools. In other words, they had not got the money but would not come out and say so. Over the past 12 months we have heard half truths and evasive answers in this House and it is about time that practice came to an end. The Parliamentary Secretary should say they are short of money and that they cannot do this work until a certain date. He should tell the people when they will do it, and not let it run on and promise something and then change it.
This started about 12 months ago. They wanted a school built with 14 classrooms. There should be sufficient planning in the Department of Education to anticipate this need. There were 4,000 houses built in this area, some of them private houses. Let us take it that there are 3,000 corporation houses for which no one was eligible unless they had four children. There may be the odd case where houses were condemned or houses fell down and families with one or two children were housed. This would give 12,000 children in this area. At the moment the national schools there cater for 1,400 children. A scheme was started about eight or nine years ago and was finished about two or three years ago. Some of the children were seven, eight or nine years of age when they arrived in the area and they have now left school and are working. Many of them got very little schooling because there was not sufficient room for them in the schools in the area.
This applies also to other areas like Ballymun. The children have to go into the centre of the city to O'Connell School, to St. Canice's, to St. Patrick's, Drumcondra, and this places quite a financial burden on the parents. Infants have to be brought to school and the parents have to travel there and back twice a day. In one instance I know of, this works out at 5s a day for the parent and 10d for the child. The parent has to pay 5s 10d per day because there are not sufficient schools in the area. The children cannot get into secondary schools on the north side of the city. Some of them travel as far as Sandymount. I am pointing out that long ago these national schools should have been planned and provided. There is no plan now. No site has been procured for secondary schools. There are 1,000 boys and girls leaving these schools every year and there are in the region of 400 places for them.