Deputy John Browne has been given permission to raise on the Adjournment of the House the serious overcrowding problem at Gorey CBS. Deputy Browne has nine minutes and the Minister has five.
Adjournment Debate. - Gorey (Wexford) School Accommodation.
I thank you, Sir, for allowing me in on the Adjournment and I would like to share my time, even though short, with my colleagues Deputy H. Byrne, Deputy D'Arcy and Deputy Yates, all from Wexford.
I would like to draw the Minister's attention to the terrible conditions at the primary school, Gorey CBS. It is well known now that the parents, students and teachers are up in arms because of the way they have been treated by the Department for the past 11 years. They have been ignored and as a result the people of Gorey have lost faith in both the Department and the present Government. Over the past few years they have got nothing but false promises and so they have decided to take action. They arranged public meetings. The students aged from four to 11 or 12 or whatever age they are in primary school went on strike for a week. Yesterday the Dáil was picketed by parents and a Christian Brother.
In 1976 they were promised a new school. Now, almost in 1987, 11 years later, they have not got even an extension. They have ten teachers, five suitable classrooms, one toilet, no facilities for PE or Art and no library or medical room. Two cloakrooms and two prefabricated buildings are being used as classrooms. There are dampness and condensation and problems with heating, windows, et cetera. The problems affecting that school are serious.
I am asking the Minister to give us a commitment here tonight and to tell us the truth. Will Gorey primary school extension go ahead? If so let him stitch that into the record of this House tonight. The parents of Gorey are tired of waiting and receiving letters from the Department stating that it is intended that the work will go ahead. They do not want to hear what is intended, they want to hear that it is going ahead. I ask the Minister to give a commitment here tonight that work on this school will proceed early in 1987.
I thank you, Sir, for giving us time to debate the issue of the necessity of an extension to Gorey CBS national school. I sought permission to raise this matter a few weeks ago without success.
Gorey CBS National School has an enrolment of 275 students and, as Deputy Browne has said those pupils and their ten teachers are trying to operate in six classrooms, two 11 year old prefabricated rooms and two cloakrooms. There is no staff room, no library, and no medical room. How can it be expected that the proper educational programme could be carried out in such circumstances? Poor heating obtains not only in the prefabricated rooms but throughout the school and that is not conducive to good education. This school, the Christian Brothers, the teachers, pupils and parents in Gorey are being discriminated against. The local parents' association collected contributions long ago and they have been led a merry dance particularly over the past three years. With Deputy Browne I ask the Minister tonight to come clean and to tell us the truth. When will the new school be built? When can the people of Gorey expect fair play? As is well known in this House and outside, the Christian Brothers over the years have been the backbone of the Irish educational system and I boast proudly that I attended the Christian Brothers' school. Surely because of their contribution they deserve better treatment. Every excuse in the book has been thrown at the people in Gorey and still they have a school which is below standard. I detest strikes but I am not surprised at the present unpleasant situation. By refusing to build the extension we are teaching the children about the advantage of strikes. It is a pity that it had to go that far. The parents feel cheated and think that nothing is being done. It is dangerous even to talk about that extension in Gorey.
I too would ask the Minister to allow the extension for the CBS national school in Gorey to proceed at the earliest date. Existing accommodation is completely inadequate. Because of the lack of facilities there has been enormous pressure on teachers, pupils and parents. The provision of this extension has become a major issue in Gorey. One of the existing classrooms has an asbestos roof which is a danger to health and it has been in use as far back as the early 'fifties. That is a scandal.
A long time has elapsed, something in the region of 11 years, since this programme was first initiated. I am aware of the problems in obtaining a suitable site. Having decided against a new school the board of management looked for an extension. Having got a suitable site for the extension it was found that the foundation was built on a quarry and special engineers had to be brought in to assess the suitability of the foundations, and this created further delays.
A letter has been received from the Minister of State dated 13 November 1986 which says that it is the intention of the Department to start building the school before 1 March 1987. I call on the Minister to reaffirm that commitment and give an absolute guarantee that the building will commence before that date. Such a commitment would defuse the situation and satisfy the local people. The local contribution is available. There is £25,000 lodged in the bank in Gorey.
I thank the Chair for facilitating this debate and I compliment my colleagues for articulating the case so ably. No words could amply convey the level of frustration among ordinary people because of the delays. Unfortunately, now when the Oireachtas Members from Wexford say that it will go ahead, it is not believed because of previous difficulties.
The tenders have been in since 7 July of this year. It was made clear to the people that there was not any money for the school to be started this year. We were informed twice when Deputy Kenny visited the school that the first £200,000 available in 1987 would be committed to the extension in Gorey. A request for a small two roomed extension is a reasonable, modest request. The Minister now has the opportunity to relieve the feelings of not only the Oireachtas Members but the whole community in Gorey who are extremely concerned about this and to bring the matter to an end and to say that work will commence on the site prior to 1 March 1987.
After a few years in the House one has to resist the temptation to be cynical about questions such as this but it is a temptation I can easily resist on this occasion when we have an all-party approach. I am certain nobody wants to make political advantage out of this. There can be four contributions in the local papers next week to show a proper concern for this pressing local problem. I share the Deputies' concern for the state of this school.
As Deputy D'Arcy said, there were unusual complex engineering problems associated with the planning of this extension. The site was a disused quarry and it was necessary to engage structural engineers at consultant level to advise. These things take time. There has been no undue delay in this instance. The planning has proceeded apace, it has been completed and we are now ready for a contract to be placed. I would reiterate what Deputy Kenny said in his letter of 13 November 1986, that it is our intention that the contract will be placed not later than 1 March next. The commitment has been given in writing.
I share Deputy Byrne's views about the lack of propriety in having children as young as four years of age engaged in strikes. I deprecate that action. I can understand it and I can understand the circumstances in which it was taken. Those circumstances will obviously go some way towards mitigating the inspiration for that action but they do not excuse it. It is a local issue of some intensity and I can understand local feelings.
Those protests might be an unseemly example to the community and to the children involved. There is no need for those protests to be continued because a commitment has been given by my colleague, for whose absence I must apologise as he is on official business. My colleague gave that commitment a month ago and I now reiterate it.
I have every confidence that the contract will be placed not later than 1 March in the coming year. I acknowledge the generosity of the local community in providing the local contribution. It is sometimes forgotten that the State do not own the schools of the nation but that they belong to the communities. The State merely subvents them and supports them to the greater part of the cost involved. There are many communities with claims on the State, communities with schools in as bad as and in a worse condition than the Gorey school but they have recognised that there is a widespread demand and that through the taxpayer there is a limit on what the State can be called upon to pay. In the scheduling of these extensions and repairs the turn of the Gorey school is imminent and I am glad to have the opportunity this evening to reiterate the commitment that it is our intention that this contract will be placed not later than 1 March next.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 12 December 1986.