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?