Adjournment Debate. - Clonmel (Tipperary) School.

I understand the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Deputy Allen, is answering for the Minister. This is the third occasion I have raised this matter in the House and I object to the Minister not being present. It is one of the reasons I raise this matter for the third time in the past few months. The Minister does not have the courtesy to reply to me, a long standing Member of the House, about promises she allegedly made on radio.

The Clonmel High School project has been ongoing for the past four to five years. Last year, an old building in the grounds was belatedly refurbished. Work began and continued through the summer into September and October. Four classes could not be held because there was no room for them. Fianna Fáil offered them rooms nearby but they were unsuitable. It meant that children were unable to attend school during that time and an essential part of their schooling was lost.

This year, through the verbosity of Deputy Ferris, there was an announcement that work was going ahead. The Minister said that work on the school was going ahead and money would be provided. To date the school has not been notified in writing that this is so. Stage four was submitted in 1996. The amendments and queries to builders, etc. were only made in December 1996. Replies to all of those were sent that month yet there was an announcement that there were still some minor queries. There has been no written communication with the school authorities or architects about the position regarding the new school. Was this part of an early panic attack when it was thought the election might take place earlier this year? The Fine Gael Member was only on the hind teat of this announcement. It was made by the Labour Party with a great flurry and panache, but no substance. Even if the Minister goes ahead with the next stage this year, it will be late July to September before building will begin. The school year will be disrupted again and it will be 1998 before the additional 100 places are provided. This school has 700 pupils and was originally built for 300.

It is arrogant of the Minister not to come in to reply after what she promised to a town with a population of 17,000. Is it not extraordinary that there has not been one written communication to the school authorities about moneys for this project? We still have not moved from stage four to five. The tenders will not be ready before June 1997. The Department will not be in a position to do anything until next September or October. Work will not start until late this year and classes will be disrupted again. It is extraordinary that the Minister would not come into the House and inform us about what she has done on this matter. I do not blame the Minister of State as he is not involved, although he has replied to me three times in the House on this matter. He did not make the announcement.

Are we moving from stage four to five?

This is a matter for Deputy Ferris not Deputy Ahearn.

When is it moving to stage five? When will it be put out to tender and when will work begin on the building?

Insults as usual. The Deputy cannot drag himself out of gutter type politics.

Another year has gone by. The Deputy is the queen of mean.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

Let us hear the Minister of State, please.

The Deputy should not be jealous.

I am grateful for this opportunity to clarify the position concerning the proposed extension to the high school, Clonmel, County Tipperary. I will answer Deputy Davern factually.

The Deputy will be very disappointed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

The Minister of State, without interruption.

I know the Minister of State for a long time and have every respect for him.

There are four secondary schools in the Clonmel post primary centre, two of which cater for boys — the high school and the vocational school.

In the case of the Christian Brothers' high school the school authorities submitted a number of proposals to my Department, one of which included the provision of additional accommodation. The Department's planning section examined this application and decided that additional temporary accommodation should be provided to cater for projected enrolments of 650 pupils in the short-term and 600 in the long-term. In reaching its conclusions, the planning section was conscious that while some temporary accommodation might be necessary to cater for the existing short-term enrolment, there would be sufficient places in the centre to cater for all pupils seeking school places.

The school authorities accepted the various schedules of accommodation on 29 September 1994 and the architectural planning for the proposed new extension of 1,358 square metres was initiated. The Department provided one general classroom in prefabricated accommodation to cater for the school's short-term needs on 6 September 1994 and a further two general classrooms were sanctioned by the Department on 6 July 1995.

The present position concerning the planning of the new extension is that the building unit of my Department is examining the detail design for the project and when this has been found to be satisfactory the project will proceed to the next stage which is the preparation of the bill of quantities.

I assure Deputy Davern and Deputy Ahearn, who has been in contact with me on a weekly basis on this issue——

The Minister of State has to include a commercial.

(Wexford): Deputy Ahearn has no say.

——that the Minister for Education is aware of the urgent need for accommodation at the school. The project was designated as a priority last year to facilitate its inclusion in the 1997 building programme.

More good news.

As the architectural planning is still proceeding, every effort will be made to complete it as soon as possible. At that stage, tenders will be invited immediately to enable construction of the extension to commence at the earliest possible date.

The Deputy cannot ask for more than that.

Will that be tomorrow?

The Deputy's party had the cheque book and did not spend anything.

If I brought a Taoiseach to Tipperary, I would have had more than 60 people to meet him.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:

I am sure the Deputy will be afforded the time to which he is entitled.