I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this issue. However, I welcome Deputy Ring's contribution and I compliment DION on its good work. It is regrettable its funding has been reduced. The immigrants never forgot us even though they were economically deprived.
Schools Building Projects.
Their funding has not been cut.
The school in Mulranny is in a very dangerous condition. Its prefab building is 19 years old and beyond repair. It is held together by wire mesh on the outside wall, which suggests it is apapier mâché building, a building of damp paper which is clearly rotten to the core. The wire mesh was applied to keep the structure from collapsing. The handles fell off the doors and the windows are falling out – one pane fell out yesterday so wind could cause the whole structure to collapse. There is no point in trying to repair it as it is already past its best before date.
The school itself is no better. There are structural cracks in the wall, with one extending from the roof to the floor. One can see what is happening outside through the crack but wind and rain also pass through it. If the crack is repaired it opens up again because the outside wall is separating from the school.
The roof of the school leaks, which means teachers must mop up the water when it rains. Water is also coming up through the floors of the school, including in the toilet area. The windows do not open because of the damp – they are swollen and in poor repair. The walls are also damp, as is the rest of the school. The boiler house and foundations are subsiding.
There are 50 children in this school, 25 of whom are in the prefab. The condition of the prefab is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is unchristian to expect young children to put up with such conditions in winter, apart from the health and safety issues. What message are we giving our children when we ask them to endure such hardship? How can they be expected to learn or enjoy good health? How can their teachers be expected to give of their best when teaching? Although an application for emergency works was made in March 2002 the school has received nothing in writing. That is unacceptable.
Were they told anything before the election?
I invite the Minister to come and see the conditions for himself, to see how bad it is. That epitomises what is happening in the west. This school in my village is crumbling, like our health services. It is a legacy of years of neglect and a lack of funding for our area. Students protested outside the House today, which is another indication of the terrible state of the education system. I hope the Minister for Education and Science will address the situation in Mulranny urgently.
I support Dr. Cowley.
I am glad the Deputy has given the Minister for Education and Science the chance to outline the Department of Education and Science's current position regarding the allocation of funding for school building projects. The 2002 capital programme has been published and full details of individual projects are available on the Department website, www.education.ie. The programme is designed to give the maximum amount of information to managers, boards of management, principals, parents and students. The criteria used for selecting projects have also been published for the first time. This year's building programme amounts to €342.9 million, four times the amount allocated in 1997. The 2003 programme will deliver over 140 large-scale projects at primary and post-primary level. In addition, over 400 schools will benefit in some way from the capital programme and all primary schools will benefit directly from the devolved grants scheme for minor works.
The budgetary allocation for 2004 and subsequent years will determine the rate of progress on projects at schools currently in architectural planning and at other schools, such as Mulranny, that have not yet commenced the architectural planning process. The management authorities at individual schools should continue to use funds from their devolved grant to deal with urgent health and safety matters. I thank the Deputy again for giving the Minister for Education and Science the opportunity of outlining the current position to the House.