Topical Issue Debate

Traveller Accommodation

As the Minister of State will know, Travellers are an ethnic group within our society. In recent years they feel they are being increasingly marginalised. There have been cuts in education, housing, local authority facilities and social supports. There have been significant rent increases, especially in local authority sites throughout the country. There has been a loss of resource teachers, special needs assistants and supports. This is on top of prejudice and ignorance engaged in by some sections of our society. Travellers have been discriminated against in jobs because they come from deprived areas such as Finglas, Ballymun and others. They have also been blocked from entering public houses, hotels and other such places. This is unacceptable as well as illegal. The vast majority of Travellers integrate well within our society.

I refer to a problem which affects five families on a Traveller site in Avila Park in Finglas. This large number of families had been living in six bungalows that were condemned as a result of pyrite found in the houses. Four of the houses were to be reinstated in part with internal works and two were to be completely rebuilt. This happened in 2005 when the problem was first brought to my attention. I visited the families and saw the conditions in which they were living which were appalling. The buildings were falling down and there were cracks everywhere. For two years these families have been living in caravans as a result of a commitment made by the local authority that their houses would be rebuilt and there would be no problem in getting the funding. This issue was brought in front of all councillors, local Deputies, officials from Dublin City Council and others. Recently, Dublin City Council met with officials from the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. The Department indicated that for the Traveller programme with Dublin City Council there was only €50,000 available this year for capital projects. Last year €1.3 million was made available. At this rate, these families will be left in these conditions for the foreseeable future because no capital funding is available. That is unacceptable.

There is also a problem in regard to refurbishment of places. I refer to Dunsink Lane where there are 300 people. This is in the Fingal area but a number of sites in the Dunsink Lane area are administered by Dublin City Council. There have been terrible problems arising from families being cut off by a barrier that was put in place many years ago, against my wishes but supported by other political parties in the area. That was appalling.

There is considerable discrimination between the way people in the Traveller community are dealt with compared to those in the settled community. I gave two examples. It is totally unacceptable that families are left sitting in caravans for two years in such conditions after promises were made. They bought furniture, have had to store it elsewhere at great cost and are living in appalling conditions in which nobody would live.

I ask the Minister of State to look at this matter and also at the issue of Dunsink Lane.

The Deputy will have another two minutes after the Minister of State's reply.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue and will respond first to the general point on funding. For the Deputy's information, I met two weeks ago with members of the Irish Traveller Movement who referred to the Dunsink Lane issue but that was not included on the Deputy's agenda today so I will not address it directly.

In accordance with the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998, statutory responsibility for the assessment of the accommodation needs of Travellers and the preparation, adoption and implementation of multi-annual Traveller accommodation programmes designed to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers rests with individual housing authorities. My Department's role is to ensure there is an adequate legislative and financial system in place to assist the authorities in providing such accommodation.

While the budget for Traveller-specific accommodation has declined considerably from previous years, the March 2011 housing needs assessment showed a clear preference among Travellers for standard housing, which is funded separately from Traveller-specific accommodation. The assessment has shown that of the 1,824 Traveller families on the waiting list, 1,789 opted for standard local authority or voluntary housing. The vast majority of Travellers already live in standard housing, whether standard local authority housing or private housing with local authority assistance, rent supplement or assistance under the rental accommodation scheme. Therefore, while funding for Traveller-specific accommodation continues to be provided for Traveller families who wish to be accommodated in this manner, evidence shows that the vast majority of Travellers wish to be accommodated in standard housing. Some €6 million out of the €60 million I allocated recently for local authority construction and acquisition programmes is for Traveller-specific projects.

Regarding the specific issue raised by the Deputy, in September 2011, Dublin City Council submitted a request to my Department for the provision of funding for remedial works to the houses in question. The detail of the proposal and potential alternatives for funding have been the subject of correspondence between my Department and the city council in the interim. A formal application for funding, including an evaluation of the options for remediation and-or replacement in respect of the number of properties affected, the extent of the works proposed and an all-in cost for the project, was requested from the council in January of this year. Subsequently, a meeting took place between my Department and the council on 7 March to consider how to advance the works. While a number of issues require clarification from the council, the Department has given a provisional commitment to part-fund these works. Funding will be reviewed after all outstanding issues have been addressed and, following this, the receipt of a tender report in due course from the council.

A provisional commitment was given to part-fund this work but five of the six families have been living in caravans for two years. It is unacceptable for anyone to sit in those conditions for two years. We need to move this on. Dublin City Council needs to provide costings for the work needed to restore the buildings to the proper standard. It is unacceptable that the council budget for this was cut from €1.3 million to €50,000. Where is the mathematics in that massive reduction? There has been a reduction in capital funding and funding for remedial works and it is not good enough. I ask the Minister of State to intervene. These families face health and safety issues.

I mentioned Dunsink Lane although I did not include it in the agenda. Families have been isolated in Dunsink Lane because we built a barrier, which is appalling. We cut off Finglas from Castleknock, which was a natural and open route used by many people and alleviated traffic. I ask the Minister of State to talk to Fingal County Council. I have raised this matter with Fingal County Council and Dublin City Council and I opposed the measure for many years. It has had a major detrimental effect on communities as a result of what happened.

I ask the Minister of State to follow up on the issue of these families and the funding local authorities receive for work that needs to be done in Dunsink Lane, St. Joseph's and other places.

The formal submissions have been made and there have been discussions. The Department has responded to say that it will partly fund the operation. The council intends to go to tender soon and intends to commence the work this year. I agree it is unacceptable that families must live in these conditions but the Department responded as soon as it received a formal request. Discussions are ongoing and my understanding is that work will commence this year.

Deputy Ellis should feel free to contact my office about Dunsink Lane, which I discussed briefly with the Irish Traveller Movement when it was discussing a number of issues of concern with me. The issue has been raised in this Chamber over the years and has been ongoing for a long time. I am happy to receive any specific point Deputy Ellis wants to raise with me.

Control of Firearms

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the opportunity to raise this issue and the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, for taking it, which is very well known to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. A problem has arisen with firearms licensing system. There have been a number of challenges by individuals in the District Court and the High Court. In 95% of the challenges, the decision went against the State. We are looking towards a solution. Mr. Justice Hedigan stated that we cannot continue with the system and that it clearly needs review.

The National Association of Regional Game Councils supported these cases in court despite being the strongest advocate of the new firearms legislation when it was introduced in 2009. The National Association of Regional Game Councils played a pivotal role in the consultation process, including chairing the most important user group of the Minister's firearms consultative panel. The National Association of Regional Game Councils recognises and supports the idea that dangerous weaponry should be licensed on a restricted basis. There is an onus on the State to apply its responsibility to those who are given such restricted arms licences. The National Association of Regional Game Councils recognises the State's grave responsibility in this area because of the consequences of making a mistake as regards the allocation of licences.

The firearms consultative panel warned of deficiencies in the administration of the system but its warnings were ignored. Its concerns included the absence of a statutory declaration under the Wildlife Act on the licence application form to give effect to the hunting licence endorsement of the firearms licence. Ignoring this resulted in an unnecessary High Court challenge, which had the effect of forcing the State to amend the Wildlife Act on a temporary basis. Licences will be renewed in the coming months and the State will face this problem because a permanent solution has not been found.

The Garda Commissioner issued an amended licence application form, which does not address the absence of the statutory declaration. As a result of these issues, the National Association of Regional Game Councils feels unable to continue to support the licensing system and the recent court cases are a consequence of this. It states that we must examine the benefit of a centralised licensing system. As chief superintendents administer the system, there are 150 different interpretations of the regulations. The interpretations are genuine but subjective, which causes grievances. Applicants see inconsistency as unfair and the test of fairness is consistency across the board.

I thank Deputy Neville for raising this matter. I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, who regrets he is unable to be present due to other business.

Regarding the hunting licence issues the Deputy refers to, the Minister understands from his colleague, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, that the relevant provisions of the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2010, which are due to lapse on 31 July 2012, will be continued with on an interim basis. The Act will be amended to give effect to this decision in due course, pending a major review of the Wildlife Acts which is promised under the National Biodiversity Plan 2011-2016.

The High Court case settlement the Deputy refers to involved judicial reviews of decisions by chief superintendents in firearms licensing cases where applications for licenses for high calibre handguns were refused. The case was settled with an undertaking to consider applications afresh and give reasons to applicants where applications are turned down.

Contrary to the picture the National Association of Regional Game Councils, NARGC, may try to paint, the Minister has asked me to highlight that the vast majority of licensed firearms holders have encountered no problems with the new licensing regime and, therefore, I disagree with the Deputy's assertion. In general terms, the House may recall that for more than 30 years prior to 2004 all handguns were effectively banned in this jurisdiction. Following a series of judicial decisions, however, almost 2,000 handguns were licensed between 2004 and 2008.

This situation did not come to pass as a result of a decision by the Oireachtas. The return of handguns also gave rise to new forms of target shooting which are a cause of concern to the Garda Commissioner. It is also worth noting that the use of handguns is illegal for hunting under the Wildlife Acts, nor are they licensed for personal protection in the State, and therefore there is a very limited potential use for them. The Minister is conscious of Mr. Justice Hedigan's remarks that "The licensing of powerful handguns and rifles is a matter of the gravest nature" and that "The strictest regulation of dangerous weaponry is essential if society is to be spared the menace of proliferating gun crime".

The reality is that An Garda Síochána are the people best placed to make decisions on firearms licensing and it would be helpful if the NARGC came to terms with that reality. It has to be said, frankly, that the intemperate material produced by that association undermines any requests they make for a spirit of co-operation in this area. On a point of clarification, the Minister would like to point out to the Deputy that the NARGC was but one of a number of shooting groups on the Firearms Consultative Panel and did not chair it, as he stated. It was chaired by a departmental official.

The Minister expects to receive a full report from the Garda Commissioner in the near future on the issues which arose in the High Court cases. The Commissioner has indicated that he shares the concern expressed by the judge but has indicated also that he is satisfied that the applications were decided upon in accordance with the decision maker's understanding of the relevant firearms legislation, that decisions were recorded in notifications to applicants, and that those decisions were informed by understandable concerns of public safety.

Tragically, the House will have been reminded in recent weeks of the dangers licensed firearms can pose for members of An Garda Síochána and others and of the dangers of firearms generally. For his part the Minister is determined to ensure that in the operation of the firearms licensing system, the question of public safety is paramount.

I put it to the Minister that the National Association of Regional Game Councils is a very knowledgeable and responsible association. I have spoken with the leaders of the association and I am satisfied that they only wish to have a firearms licensing system which is secure, fair, transparent, free of prejudice and administered in a consistent manner with due regard for the provisions of the legislation as enacted by the Oireachtas, which it fully supports. It believes this can be achieved by a centralised system with independent oversight and a non-judicial system of appeal. I put it to the Minister that the courts of law should be the last source of the appeal which should be in place.

The current system, as stated by Mr. Justice Hedigan, is flawed and does not work. I suggest that all those involved - the Ministers, the Department, the Garda and the representative of the game councils - should sit down together and rather than talk at a distance come to an agreement because until they sit down and discuss all aspects of it and examine the different opinions, we will not have a resolution to this issue. Certain people who are involved in the area of competition feel very strongly about the situation. They may be in the minority but they are an important group as well.

On a point of clarification, the Minister has stated that there was a consultative panel, and obviously it is important that collaboration and dialogue would take place.

I thank the Deputy for providing me with an opportunity to respond. As I have already mentioned, the Minister awaits a report from the Garda Commissioner on the settlement of the cases which were before the High Court and therefore it is not possible for me to comment in any meaningful way on that aspect of the debate but I will relay-----

When is that due?

The Minister, Deputy Shatter, will revert to the Deputy on that point.

On the hunting issue, I will impress upon the Minister, Deputy Deenihan, the need to have a timely resolution to this matter in time for the next hunting season. I am sure the Deputy will welcome the Minister's commitment to conduct a major review of the Wildlife Acts, which I believe will be comprehensive, promised under the National Biodiversity Plan 2011-2016. I assure Deputy Neville that I will bring the points raised by him to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Shatter, for direct reply to him.

Garda Resources

I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this issue and I thank the Minister of State for coming into the House.

I attended a meeting yesterday of the County Galway Joint Policing Committee at which public representatives, community groups and gardaí were present. There was much comment at the meeting about the fact that some progress had been made in terms of the drop in the number of assaults against persons. Many congratulations were expressed on the success in the battle against drugs, and also on the reduction in gold theft, which is a big issue in rural Ireland. However, a great deal of concern was expressed about the figures which show that crime had increased in certain areas. For example, there were 828 incidents in the first two months of the year. There were 81 burglaries, which is an increase of 17% in January and February of this year.

I raise that issue because there is a great deal of concern now that many of the people who are breaking into houses are doing so in broad daylight. They do not seem to care who is in the house. These burglaries are taking place when parents are bringing children to school or collecting them after school.

I hope that a number of issues I raise might be taken on board by the Minister of State and brought to the attention of the Minister for Justice and Equality. I refer in particular to the need for extra gardaí. Recently, we have lost a number of gardaí in the Ballinasloe area. We have also lost Garda cars, and I hope the question of extra Garda cars could be considered.

I refer to north-east Galway and places like Glenamaddy, which is in the Tuam district, Moylough, Mountbellew, Newbridge, Ballinamore Bridge and Ballygar, and Ballyfarnan and Dysart in south Roscommon where these break-ins have taken place. That has led to many public meetings being held, particularly in Newbridge where over 300 people attended a number of meetings. They have called for extra gardaí and that some of the 40 new cars that are being purchased would be available in the north-east Galway area.

There is a need for schemes like community alert and neighbourhood watch to be put into operation in towns. Those schemes were in operation in the past and some of them have fallen, so to speak, but we could renew them. I hope they will be put in place in those areas.

I have spoken to gardaí who are very concerned about people having cash in their houses. I hope some of that money could be put into financial institutions, which would be a safer place.

I urge that the points I have raised be examined, particularly those on the community alert and the various other schemes for lighting, alarms and security locks under the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. I hope extra lighting will be provided in some of the housing estates where it is badly needed.

I thank Deputy Kitt for raising this matter which I am sure is important to the communities in the areas mentioned. I am pleased to be able to set out the position on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Shatter. I have no doubt the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Cannon, is also aware of the situation.

The House is aware that, under plans agreed by the previous Government as part of its compliance with the terms of the EU-IMF agreement, Garda numbers are to be reduced across the country, including in the areas referred to by the Deputy. Reductions in numbers, whether in the Garda Síochána or elsewhere in the public sector, must be accompanied by reform. This reform is being introduced under the Croke Park agreement, which was put in place as part of a strategic response to an economic crisis. The agreement is playing a key role in reform across the public service. This programme includes the reform of structures, operations and processes to maintain the levels of service at the highest level possible while coping with reductions in numbers.

The Garda Síochána, like every other public sector body, will have to manage with reduced resources. Therefore, the Garda Commissioner has reviewed, and will continue to review, all aspects of current policing, including the deployment of personnel, the utilisation of modern technologies and the operation of Garda stations.

The Garda Commissioner is responsible for the detailed allocation of resources and in this context he informed me that on 29 February, the latest date for which figures are readily available, the personnel strength of the Galway and Roscommon-Longford divisions was 585 and 277 respectively. These figures include two sergeants and nine gardaí stationed in Glenamaddy, Moylough, Mountbellew and Ballygar stations. A total of 59 Garda Reserve members and 44 civilians are also attached to the Galway Garda division and 15 Garda Reserve members and 24 civilians are also attached to the Roscommon-Longford Garda division. All divisional resources are further augmented by a number of Garda national units such as the Garda National Drugs Unit, the Garda National Immigration Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau and other specialised units.

In the Commissioner's annual policing plan for 2012, he reiterated his commitment to "maintaining and deepening the long established relationship which An Garda Síochána has with all members of the community". The importance of the partnership between an Garda Síochána and the community in preventing and detecting crime and maintaining a safe environment for everyone can never be over-emphasised and the pledge of An Garda Síochána is to continue to invest time and energy in these partnerships and relationships to the benefit of all.

Community policing is supported by the community alert programme, which is a community-based crime prevention initiative in rural communities. The neighbourhood watch programme is another community programme, partnering An Garda Síochána with local communities in urban areas, established as a self-help crime prevention and community safety programme.

With regard to Garda transport, an order for 40 new cars has recently been placed and these vehicles are being rolled out. In addition, a tendering process is under way to put in place a contract which will allow for the provision of further Garda vehicles. This is a matter that will be pursued in light of An Garda Síochána's operational priorities and the availability of financial resources.

Garda management will continue to closely monitor the allocation of resources, taking account of transfers and retirements, crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level. The Galway and Roscommon-Longford Garda divisions will be subject to this same level of monitoring to ensure that optimum use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to the public. The Garda Commissioner has reiterated the commitment of the Garda Síochána to providing a professional and effective service to the community and he will have the Minister's full support in this regard.

I thank the Minister of State. I have been provided with a copy of a different reply to the one he has given the House and I would appreciate a copy of what he has stated. This situation is serious. At the weekend two schools local to where I live were broken into. People are beginning to ask whether gangs from outside the county are coming to Galway. Is it possible that the Minister in conjunction with the Garda could examine putting cameras on the bridges on the roads into County Galway? Nobody seems to know where the break-ins will occur next and people are concerned about outside influences and local knowledge. While there is much speculation, there is no proof of this at present. The Minister of State has provided detail in the response document I have been given and announced it in his address to the House. I thank him for what he stated and I hope he will bring my comments to the attention of the Minister.

The Deputy will be provided with a copy of my speech. I thank him for providing me with an opportunity to respond. As has been mentioned, the Commissioner and a senior management team are responsible for the detailed allocation of resources, including personnel, throughout the country. This allocation of resources is constantly monitored with regard to crime trends, policing needs and other operational strategies in place on a district, divisional and regional level to ensure optimal use is made of Garda resources and the best possible Garda service is provided to public.

I wish to make the following specific points in response to some of the issues raised by the Deputy. While the ethos of community policing is instilled in every member of the Garda Síochána, 21 gardaí are dedicated to community policing in the Galway division and nine are dedicated to community policing in the Roscommon-Longford division. The question of the closure of Garda stations is one for the Commissioner to decide upon as such closures must be detailed in his annual policing plan. The policing plan for 2013 is not yet developed and I will not speculate on what might be in it.

The efficient and effective use of resources is of prime concern in this regard rather than the relatively small cash savings that may accrue as a result of station closures. I will bring the other points raised by the Deputy to the attention of the Minister and the Commissioner. The resources available in the areas referred to by the Deputy are augmented when necessary by district, divisional, regional and national units such as scene of crime officers, the Garda National Drugs Unit and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Glenamaddy Garda station forms part of the Tuam Garda district. Ballinasloe district comprises the two administrative areas of Ballinasloe and Mountbellew. Mountbellew has in its area Moylough, Menlough, Mountbellew and Ballygar, including the Newbridge and Creggs areas. The area of south Roscommon is policed by the gardaí attached to the Clonark Garda station in the Roscommon district.

A community alert scheme is in each of the areas referred to with the exception of Newbridge. Neighbourhood watch and community alert schemes are established at the request of a particular community and every neighbourhood watch and community alert scheme has a liaison officer to ensure a formal link with the local Garda station. Six community alert schemes are in existence in the south Roscommon area in Ballyforan, Curraghboy, Kiltoom, Drum, Moore and Taughmaconnell. Plans are in place with the assistance of the crime prevention officer based at Roscommon Garda station to review, and in some cases amalgamate, some of these in the near future.

The district officer at Ballinasloe Garda station met Deputy Kitt and a number of people from the Newbridge area on Tuesday, 20 March 2012, to discuss their concerns about a number of recent crimes in the area. As result of this meeting it has been agreed to reactivate the dormant community alert and neighbourhood watch schemes in the Newbridge area. Gardaí in Ballinasloe have organised an open community meeting for the Newbridge and Ballygar areas, which will be held this week, to establish correctly a community alert scheme. Another meeting was held last week in the Ballygar area which was attended by local residents and addressed by the divisional crime prevention officer and Mr. Bernard Kearney of Muintir na Tíre. The meeting was also attended by gardaí attached to Ballygar. I hope this information is of some benefit to the Deputy.

I thank the Minister of State.

School Staffing

I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing me raise this matter and I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Ciarán Cannon, for being here. As he is aware, I have been in close contact with the staff of St. Oliver Plunkett's national school in Clonmel in recent months. Like a number of other schools in my constituency, it was concerned about future staffing levels following the announcement of budget 2012. St. Oliver Plunkett's national school is one of many around the country that currently has two legacy posts under the disadvantaged areas scheme. The Minister of State will be aware that as a result of the announcement last December, the school was due to lose both posts in the 2012-13 academic year. While staff at the school were delighted to hear on 21 February that following careful analysis by the Department of the impact of budget measures on disadvantaged primary schools the Government had agreed to the retention of 235 legacy disadvantaged posts in DEIS band 1 and band 2 primary schools, St. Oliver Plunkett's national school was, unfortunately, informed on 7 March that it would not retain its two legacy posts for the 2012-13 academic year. The principal has been in contact with the Department and has explained that the school fulfils the criteria for retention of these posts, namely, it is a DEIS band 1 school as listed by the Department in the schools support programme in respect of which it has two concessionary disadvantaged posts. A number of other schools around the country wherein this situation is replicated have had proposed cuts reversed.

Perhaps the Minister of State will explain the reason this school has been informed it will lose its two legacy posts despite the announcement made in February and despite that other schools in similar situations have retained their posts. I am sure he is aware that St. Oliver Plunkett's national school was omitted from Appendix C and from the list of schools in the final section of the report when published. When the principal raised this with the Department at the time, he was told to wait for official written notification on the matter, which was due on 7 March. Perhaps the Minister of State will detail the reason for this omission and say if it led to the school being informed it was to lose these two posts. I am also interested in hearing if the Minister of State is aware of any other schools which were omitted from the report.

I am sure the Minister can understand the concern among the staff and parents of children attending St. Oliver Plunkett's national school. I urge him to ensure this situation is resolved. It is unfair and wrong for one school to be singled out, in particular given the standard of education and record of the school concerned.

I am replying to this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn.

Two disadvantage concessionary posts were allocated under the disadvantaged areas scheme to reduce class sizes at St. Oliver Plunkett's national school. With the introduction of DEIS in 2005 and the more favourable pupil-teacher ratios for band 1 DEIS schools, these posts were subsumed into the school's overall DEIS allocation to ensure that the appropriate pupil-teacher ratios could be implemented. The school does not have any teaching posts over and above its entitlement under DEIS from previous disadvantage schemes and, therefore, it was not among the 140 DEIS band 1 and band 2 schools included in the recent report on the impact, in terms of posts, that certain budget measures would have on these schools, the main focus of which concerned additional posts allocated under disadvantage schemes predating DEIS.

The staffing arrangements for the 2012-13 school year are set out in Primary Circular 0007/2012, which is available on the Department's website. This includes details of the reform of the allocation process, which is designed to bring a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools. Applying the new staffing schedule for band 1 DEIS schools to the school referred to by the Deputy, the school is due to lose one mainstream class teacher for the 2012-13 school year due to falling enrolment. The overall objective of the reforms is to enable the teacher allocation and redeployment process to operate more smoothly and efficiently within the new climate of fixed ceilings on teaching posts. The changes are designed to give a more equitable distribution of existing posts between schools, give earlier certainty to schools about their staffing allocations and, where possible, simplify and streamline existing processes and give greater autonomy to schools.

The new arrangements incorporate a long overdue updating of the General Allocation Model, GAM, combining learning support for high incidence special needs and language support for all schools. It also includes changes to NCSE approved low incidence resource hours in the base schools or in neighbouring schools. This approach builds on the interim arrangements that operated in 2011 but in a more structured and transparent manner. The allocation processes also includes an appeals mechanism for schools to submit an appeal under certain criteria to an independent appeals board. Details of the criteria for appeal are contained in the circular referred to above. The appeals board operates independently of the Department and its decision is final. The closing date for submission of appeals for the April meeting of the staffing appeal board was 23 March 2012. The school to which the Deputy refers has not submitted an appeal.

I am disappointed with the content of the Minister of State's reply. The school in question has been in contact with the Department on several occasions, which I understand will be accepted as an appeal. However, it is desperately unfair that this school in Clonmel, which meets the criteria of a DEIS school, was left out of the review. I do not wish to be critical of the Government of which I am a member but I am disappointed that St. Oliver Plunkett's national school which meets the criteria set down by the Department was not included in the review. I ask that the Minister of State reconsider this decision. I will not let this issue lie. What happened is totally unfair and unjust. The school meets all the relevant criteria and this decision should be reversed.

I understand and take on board the Deputy's concerns. The school was not included in the recent review process because it was not originally impacted by the budget decision. The school will lose one post in the coming school year due to falling enrolment and not as a result of the budgetary decision.

If the Deputy wishes to take up the case with me on an individual basis, I will undertake to work with him to address his concerns. I must clarify again for the Deputy that the school was not included in the review process undertaken by the Minister, Deputy Quinn, because it was not impacted by the original budget decision and is losing a post as a result of an overall fall in enrolment.

Sitting suspended at 5.40 p.m. and resumed at 5.45 p.m.