Cuts in Education: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Jonathan O'Brien on Tuesday, 24 September 2013:
“That Dáil Éireann:
affirms that the right to education is an internationally recognised human right, enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 13 and 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, reaffirmed by the 1960 UNESCO Convention Against Discrimination in Education, Article 2 of the first Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 28 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child;
notes that the Proclamation of the Irish Republic in 1916 pledges to "cherish all the children of the nation equally"’ and recognises their right to a decent education;
notes that access to education provisions in internationally recognised human rights law include the obligation to eliminate discrimination at all levels of the education system;
recognises that Article 42 of the Constitution of Ireland commits the State to ensuring children receive a certain minimum education;
notes that the commitment to ensuring a citizen’s right to education has been undermined by the failure of successive governments to adequately invest in education and that even during the height of the Celtic tiger the 2007 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s annual Education at a Glance survey reported that the State was spending 4.7% of its income on education compared to an OECD average for that year of 5.7%, while current spending on third level education in Ireland amounts to 1.2% of GDP compared to the OECD average of 1.5%;
notes that, since coming to power in 2011, the Fine Gael-Labour Party Government has continued the slash and burn policies of its Fianna Fáil-Green Party predecessors through the implementation of successive cuts to the State’s education system that resulted in an adjustment of €132.3 million in 2012 and €77 million in 2013, with further cuts to come in October 2014, which are expected to be as high as €100 million; and the punitive cuts to education are being made when the school population is projected to rise significantly over the next decade and at a time when the Government has imposed an employment control framework that limits the numbers who can be employed in the education sector;
deplores the current class sizes of primary schools in Ireland which average 26 pupils per teacher, the second largest in the EU, and that a further increase in the pupil-teacher ratio, PTR, would mean 30 plus class sizes in many primary schools;
acknowledges that the State’s failure to invest properly in education has resulted in a significant decline in literacy and numeracy rates in Irish schools, as reflected in tests carried out by the OECD between 2000 and 2009 which saw a fall from 15th to 25th in maths and from 5th to 17th in reading;
believes that, during a recession, it is important to prioritise and ring-fence funding for education in order to produce a highly skilled and flexible workforce that is necessary for our future economic growth and prosperity;
challenges Government’s policies that target higher and further education and greatly undermine the objective of incentivising people from upskilling and re-training in order to enhance their employment prospects;
recognises that the millions cut from the education budget will greatly impact on the implementation of progressive measures such as the reform of the junior certificate cycle and improving literacy and numeracy standards that are essential for improving standards in Irish schools;
recognises that instead of guaranteeing equal access to the highest standard of education, current Government policy has entrenched educational inequalities and a two-tier system;
acknowledges that more than one in four primary school pupils are being taught in overcrowded classrooms and many are taught in run-down facilities;
further acknowledges that almost one quarter of children of working-class parents do not sit the leaving certificate and the numbers leaving school without qualifications have remained unchanged since the 1990s, and an estimated 1,000 students per year cannot even make the transition from primary to secondary education;
notes that approximately one quarter of the adult population has literacy and numeracy problems while taxpayers pay €80 million per annum to subsidise the private education system, even though the children of the majority will never have a chance to attend these exclusive fee-paying schools;
acknowledges that teachers who are proficient in the Irish language play an essential role in helping to ensure the future viability of our native tongue as a vibrant, working, living language;
further acknowledges that Gaelscoileanna are struggling because of changes to staffing schedules as well as the ending of the preferential PTR and that this is likely to lead to the forced closure of many Irish language schools; and agrees that back to school costs for parents are unacceptably high;
calls on the Government to set out a timetable to:
- adopt a similar strategic approach to that taken by Northern Ireland’s Education Minister, John O’Dowd, who has redirected almost £400 million back into schools that has led to a rise in standards which have been recognised by the findings of the TIMSS and PIRLS, Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and Progress in International Reading Literacy, that showed primary schools in Northern Ireland are world leaders in terms of literacy and numeracy - a trend that has also been matched by encouraging improvements in the post-primary sector;
- reverse the loss of an estimated 700 plus career guidance counsellors in second level schools resulting from the decision in budget 2013 not to provide these posts on an ex-quota basis that will seriously reduce the level of support for children experiencing a range of emotional and learning difficulties;
- ring-fence funding for Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools bands 1 and 2 schools; increase the number of teaching resource hours and bring to an end the cap on special needs assistants in order to match the needs of a rising school population and break the cycle of deprivation, marginalisation and educational disadvantage through the promotion of fairness and equality;
- reverse the decision to increase the PTR from 17:1 to 19:1 for post leaving certificate programmes which unfairly impacts on marginalised learners and the loss of an estimated 400 teachers with expertise in specialised subjects who will be impossible to replace in the further education and training sector;
- reinstate resource teachers and supports for Traveller children to pre-2011 levels;
- reverse the cut to the back to education allowance which will further compound and restrict student opportunities to access further education and will act as a barrier to creating job opportunities for the unemployed;
- introduce mandatory regulations that will ensure parents have greater choice when buying school uniforms and paying for school text books; and
- place on a statutory footing the voluntary code of practice to regulate the printers responsible for producing school text books; and
further calls on the Government to:
- make a commitment not to increase the PTR in the State’s primary and secondary school sector;
- ensure that, before its proposed budget cuts to the education sector are implemented, a comprehensive equality and social impact study is undertaken to first determine the implications for teachers and students;
- increase supports for Irish language learning and ensure Gaeltacht schools retain a preferential PTR in recognition of the challenges of teaching in Irish medium schools;
- publish a timetable for the delivery and construction of school buildings and other educational facilities and bring an end to the use of prefab buildings with at least a minimum of 150 school building projects to enter the architectural and planning stage each year so that schools are ready to proceed as quickly as possible to the construction phases;
- protect the maintenance grant and end the annual increase to student contribution fees;
- increase resources for adult literacy, and deliver a progressive national strategy on lifelong and work-based learning focused at those most in need of training, re-training and up-skilling;
- spend at least 6% of GDP on education, in keeping with best international practice;
- set a target to eliminate the need for the subsidy of educational provisions by charitable organisations, in the form of school books and school breakfasts and lunches, and ensure that every child can avail of a book rental scheme and free school meals;
- immediately extend the early start preschool project to all schools with pupils from disadvantaged areas, with a maximum child to adult ratio of 12:1;
- introduce a universal preschool session of 3.5 hours per day, five days a week for all children aged three to five years;
- invest towards implementation of a PTR of 15:1 in all post-primary schools and immediately reduce all class sizes for children under nine years of age to a maximum of 20 pupils;
- invest to progressively reduce class sizes at post-primary level;
- keep funding for schools fully public and under democratic control;
- ensure adequate provision of special needs assistants where required;
- set targets to increase the number of students in further and higher education, especially part-time and adult students and other groups, including people with disabilities and Travellers, and provide third level access programmes for schools with a low take-up of places;
- provide adequate financial assistance and support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete their courses;
- establish a book lending scheme across all primary and secondary schools; and
- end the system where schools are reliant on voluntary contributions from parents by raising the capitation grants to cover the real cost of running a school.”
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
“recognises that:
- the latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, Education at a Glance survey from 2013, relating to the 2010 year, reports that the State was investing 6.4% of GDP in education, compared to an OECD average of 6.3%, while current spending on third-level education in Ireland amounts to 1.6% of GDP, equal to the OECD average of 1.6%; and
- education services have been protected despite the immense challenges posed to the financial sustainability of our nation;
welcomes:
- the fact that the 2012 Report on Retention Rates of Pupils in Second Level Schools, published by the Department of Education and Skills, found that over 90% of all students in Ireland now stay in school to sit the Leaving Certificate;
- that this shows that the proportion of early school leavers in Ireland is considerably below the EU average of 14 per cent;
- the fact that retention rates in delivering equality of opportunity in schools, DEIS, schools have particularly improved, rising from 68% to over 80% over a five-year period, and that studies from the Department’s inspectorate and from the Educational Research Centre have shown improvements in pupils’ literacy in DEIS primary schools; and
- the fact that Irish fourth class pupils were placed among the countries performing significantly above the international average in the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study tests conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, and that the Irish fourth class pupils were among the top performers in Progress in International Reading Literacy 2011 tests;
notes that under the current Government a range of new initiatives have been introduced to protect the quality of our education system and the well-being of our young people, which include:
- reform of the junior cycle;
- an action plan to combat bullying in schools;
- the implementation of a major restructuring of initial teacher education provision;
- the creation and report of a Forum on Patronage and Pluralism in the Primary Sector;
- a review of the system of apprenticeships in Ireland;
- significant reform of school inspection and the introduction of school self-evaluation;
- the roll-out of new guidelines for schools on mental health promotion and suicide prevention;
- a new landscape for the higher education sector, and implementation of the national higher education strategy to 2030; and
- the publication of the draft general scheme of an education (admission to schools) Bill 2013 which will ensure fairness and transparency in school admissions;
further welcomes:
- the fact that €12 million has been set aside by this Government since 2011 for the roll-out of a new national literacy and numeracy strategy, which is designed to help ensure that every child who leaves school has the literacy and numeracy skills they will need for the rest of their lives, and that a further €9 million has been invested in the same period for other related activities including standardised testing and the junior certificate schools programme;
- the provision of free high-speed broadband to every post-primary school in Ireland by September 2014, at a cost of up to €40 million by 2015, paid for by the Department of Education and Skills and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources;
- the protection by this Government of the standard pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools and free post-primary schools since taking office;
- the ring-fencing of an investment of €1.3 billion to support children with special educational needs in the education sector;
- the consolidation of the vocational education committees sector as local education and training boards, and the replacement of FÁS with SOLAS, an agency that will be empowered to lead a coherent, high-quality further education and training sector in Ireland;
- the inclusion in the Further Education and Training Act 2013 of a requirement for SOLAS to develop a strategy for the promotion and development of adult literacy and numeracy;
- the investment of over €2 billion during the lifetime of this Government in school building projects, creating an estimated 15,000 direct and 3,000 indirect jobs over the period of the programme;
- in particular, the investment by this Government of €57 million to date to replace prefabricated structures with permanent school classrooms, which will reduce the prefab rental bill by 25% each year; and
- the creation of new training, further and higher education programmes, such as Springboard and Momentum, which have so far provided over 23,000 unemployed people with educational opportunities closely linked to areas where employment opportunities exist.”

Deputy Ross is sharing a ten-minute slot with Deputies Joan Collins, Finian McGrath, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan and Clare Daly, with two minutes each.

There is no Minister present. We will wait for him.

He is on his way.

I welcome this motion. As it is so long and detailed, it would be difficult not to find elements with which anyone agreed. The fundamental point in this Sinn Féin motion, that 6% of GDP should be allocated specifically to education, is welcome, as it is often the international practice. The commitment to decreasing the pupil-teacher ratio is one that all Deputies should support.

No one wishes to see overcrowded classrooms. No one envies the Minister the position in which he finds himself, a position in which education is so often found, that being, the whipping boy for cuts. However, I wish to make a plea regarding the withdrawal of the grant to fee-paying schools. It is convenient for those who advocate no cuts to claim that this is an area in which an improvement can be made. The Minister has heard me comment on this matter previously. It would save money if he encouraged fee-paying schools. Kilkenny College and other such institutions are withdrawing from the fee-paying sector into the free sector. If people wish to pay fees, let them do so. It is a decision that, as the Minister knows, is made by many who have minority beliefs and find that this is the only possible way to put their children into minority schools. Will the Minister consider reversing the cuts as a means of saving money for the State and providing minorities a way of education their children as they wish?

I support the motion. Last Thursday, I had an opportunity to ask a priority question of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I decided to ask some questions raised by Barnardos, the children's charity, in its pre-budget submission. These questions were on how issues relating to uniforms, books and cuts in social welfare payments such as the back to school allowance severely affected children in low-income families. The question was ruled out of order. Apparently, these issues and how they affect children are of no relevance to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs.

When I read the Barnardos report, I was shocked and outraged by what the children quoted in the submission had to say. I will cite some brief examples. Paul, aged 15 years, stated that he did not have all of his school books because they cost too much and that he hated going to school because he knew that his teacher and others would pick on him. His uniform had not changed since joining secondary school, despite having grown a great deal since then. According to Connor, aged seven years, his mother tells him to put on another jumper, but he is still cold and keeps coughing. The coughing will not go away and he misses a great deal of school because it hurts when he coughs a lot. Grace, aged 13 years, believes that no one in secondary school cares about pupils, only about the right books and uniforms. These despairing voices are children's. They are not being given a chance. This is what it means to be disadvantaged.

This crisis demands action. At a minimum, the Department of Education and Skills must run a properly funded comprehensive school meals programme, not the bits and pieces that we have now. The cuts in the back to school allowance should be reversed. All schools should be forced to operate a book rental scheme and cheap uniform policy. The cut to career guidance counsellors and resource teachers should be reversed. There is an urgent need for specialist help with the emotional and educational needs of children.

I thank the Acting Chairman for the opportunity to contribute in this important debate on class size. I support the motion, the INTO, parents and children. Class size matters. Education is the future of this country. Our primary school children did not cause the economic crisis and they should not be penalised. At public meetings last night in Airfield in my new constituency and last week in Clontarf, I gave a public commitment that I would support this motion.

Primary school children are an important part of the future. Most hard-nosed economists accept that education is one of the ways that we will get out of this mess. When I started teaching in primary school, there were 45 children in my class. Just before I got elected in 2002, there were 20 pupils. This made a major difference in terms of literacy, self-esteem, more attention for pupils, a better service, reading groups and so on.

At 24 pupils per class, Ireland's classes are the second most crowded in the EU. The EU average is 20 per class. In June, the OECD stated that 9.4% of Government spending was on education compared with 13.7% in 2000. The average EU spend is 13%. This is the reality of what is happening in education. The Minister should consider the value of education, the country's future and our children and not go near class sizes.

I imagine - in fact, I am definite - that this motion would be supported by the Minister were he in opposition. Whatever changes when one enters into government, one forgets all of one's ideals and, for some reason, it does not seem to matter that class sizes grow so large that they not only become impossible for the children, who were already finding it difficult, but even-----

They have not changed in the past-----

That is the direction we are heading. The Minister can pretend-----

How does the Deputy know?

My children and their friends tell me that there are more pupils in their class. Either they and their teachers are imagining it or it is actually happening.

A possible solution would have been for the Government to keep its promise on regaining the money that was pumped into the European banking system, but it has given up on that. It is often stated that if one wants more teachers on the available budget, one must examine wages, in that teachers in Ireland are paid more than is the case in other parts of Europe. We never hear the other side of the equation - it is more expensive to live in Ireland than in any other European country. This is not by accident. Rather, it is down to a lack of action by the Government. Many of the businesses with which people must deal are driven by cartels that keep prices high. The rate system applied to businesses is unaccountable. Nothing has been done about upward-only rental leases. No matter what people in this country are paid, they will have a difficult time surviving.

If the Minister had done something about this he would have more teachers in schools and would get more bang for his buck. However, the Minister keeps doing it his way and keeps codding himself.

Speaking on "Morning Ireland" earlier today, the general secretary of the ASTI, Mr. Pat King, said, "Our intention is to protect education as far as we can. Our dispute is about the quality and disintegration of education." I salute the members of ASTI for rejecting the Haddington Road agreement and for making that stand.

I absolutely and utterly disagree with the points made by the Taoiseach this morning when he implied that the ASTI was a lone voice in the wilderness. That seems to be an approach whereby the Minister, Deputy Quinn, is also trying to pigeonhole the ASTI. The reality, however, is that ASTI members represent the voice and concerns of all parents and students, as well as many of their colleagues in the TUI and other unions. They are also voicing the concerns of many public sector workers who rejected Haddington Road in round one, and many others who voted for it due to a feeling of coercion.

The ASTI union members' stance is a very important one and I want to put on record my support for them. It is economic lunacy to cut back funding in education; it goes against everything for which the Labour Party was set up. It also goes against everything the Minister said while on the Opposition benches. Even the most conservative estimates would tell him that an investment of €1 per child at primary level yields a return of €4, €5 or €6 to the economy later on, not to mind what it does for a child's individual development.

Children are now being left behind by this Government. The Minister has a choice, he has funds and leeway. Increasing class sizes and making teachers pay is not the way forward. It is not what James Connolly established the Labour Party to do. We appeal to the Minister to reverse the decision. I fully support the motion tabled by Sinn Féin.

The next speaking slot is for the Government parties. There are ten Deputies offering and Deputy Helen McEntee is leading off with three minutes. All the Deputies - there are eight from Fine Gael and two from Labour - will have three minutes each.

On a point of order, I have to leave the Chamber for a while but I will be back in about half an hour.

Okay. I now call Deputy Helen McEntee.

This morning I was on local radio with Deputy Jonathan O'Brien who has moved this Private Members' motion. We discussed cuts, education and everything that has surrounded this debate. The first thing I said on radio was that our education system is not perfect. It was a fairly straightforward simple statement to make. The second thing I said was that our education services have been protected, despite the amount of pressure they have been put under and despite the challenges to our financial stability. That was also a fairly straightforward statement. To say that I was questioned on these statements as being contradictory is, to say the least, an understatement. I can see how they appear to be contradictory but how could I say other than that our educational system is not perfect? We have had cuts, reduced our budget and stretched our finances at the same time as maintaining that our services are being protected. The simple fact is that no educational system is ever perfect. There always will be flaws and ways in which we can make improvements. However, given the budgetary situation, the cuts that have occurred and the pressure the country is under, our educational framework remains one of the best. It can only improve by working with this Government.

We are already investing more than €2 billion in a cyber capital programme which prioritises the construction of schools, creates 15,000 jobs indirectly and 3,000 directly. Some €57 million has been invested to replace prefabs which means we have permanent classrooms. We have new initiatives to reform the junior certificate examination, as well as the action plan against bullying in schools, and mental health guidelines. In addition, we are promoting and implementing a higher education strategy. That is just to name a few initiatives and I could go on.

Sinn Féin's approach to austerity on both sides of the Border is somewhat contradictory. They have a Sinn Féin Minister for Education in the North who apparently has put £400 million into education, yet last year 28 post-primary schools there were closed. That leads me to believe their economic policies, including the manner of expenditure, leave a lot to be desired.

I wish to ask the Minister a few questions about my own constituency which has large, growing populations in Ashbourne, Dunboyne, Dunshaughlin and Ratoath. That puts a lot of strain on school principals who must decide on enrolment figures. It is difficult for them to refuse admission to children. We have maintained our pupil-teacher ratio at 28:1 and in one third of cases it is actually below 25:1. However, I ask the Minister to examine the schools where ratios are higher than that. Some 900 teachers are being recruited to maintain the figures both at primary and secondary level, but that may not be enough to cope with the current discrepancies in enrolments, as well as enrolments in the years ahead.

I also ask the Minister to address the issue of resource hours for children with Down's syndrome. A recent report from the National Council for Special Education, or NCSE, said there was no evidence to show that children with Down's syndrome needed resource hours. However, it is as plain as the nose on my face that is not the case. We do not currently have enough studies or reports to show that is the case but if the Minister could examine the matter in the context of the forthcoming budget it would help the children involved. Nonetheless, we have a great educational system at the moment.

I wish to acknowledge the Sinn Féin motion. It is important for public representatives to keep education at the top of our agenda and prioritise it as best we can. Unfortunately, the difference between Government and Opposition Deputies is that those on the Government benches must manage the budget and the available funds that are allocated to try to protect our education system as far as possible. Despite some of the failings in our education system, we have a good, robust and sound system overall. Nonetheless, we must still work to improve it.

As a father of three young children in primary school, I am as concerned about education as the next person. I am sure every Member of the House is similarly concerned. That is why we need to continue debating education as a matter of priority here in the Chamber, in committees and within our parties. Many Deputies have argued to protect the education budget as far as possible.

For the past five years, I have been the chairperson of a national school's board of management. I can therefore see at first hand the challenges that a mid-sized school with 15 staff faces in keeping its day-to-day budget going as well as maintaining proper resources for pupils. I commend the board of management, which is a voluntary body comprising representatives of the community, parents, staff and school management. The in-school management team and the parents' council are also represented. The work of the board, particularly in fund raising, often goes unrecognised. They manage to keep the school going and preserve resources in the best interests of pupils. That situation needs to continue.

In my school, we operate a successful book leasing scheme which should be extended to all schools. It assists teachers and, more especially, parents to obtain the required educational resources.

The school population is rising and, in fairness to the Government, one of the first things the Minister, Deputy Quinn, and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, did on assuming office was to institute a prefab replacement programme. This was to replace many prefabs which had been rented, with taxpayers' money going down the drain as a result. In the short space of two years much progress has been made in replacing prefabs and providing additional accommodation.

As a Government Deputy, I am taking on board what the Sinn Féin Deputies are saying. I accept their concerns are genuine. It behoves us on the Government benches to work within a budget that is seriously affected by the economic crash. We will do all within our power to protect the education of our children.

Last Thursday evening in Ennis, I attended a public meeting on primary education. I gave the parents there a commitment to raise some of the issues that affect rural schools. Two years ago, the situation was very different. The Minister, Deputy Quinn, and the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, inherited an education system that was in real need of reform, given the difficult economic times. In spite of this, the Minister has managed to bring forward a major package of reforms, including an investment of €2 million to ensure that school buildings are fit for purpose. As we move forward, it will be important to continue to invest in schools and to ensure that children have access to a good education whether in rural or urban areas.

Last week, I visited Moyasta national school in west Clare, which is a 54 pupil, two-teacher school which accommodates four classes in two rooms. In one room, there are 34 students made up of nine junior infants, seven senior infants, 12 first class pupils and six second class pupils. Two of the children in this class have special needs. The second room comprises third, fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils, three of whom have special needs. I saw first-hand on that occasion the situation which the teachers have to endure. I am sure there are other schools throughout the country in a similar situation. How can we expect one teacher to deliver four different programmes to four different classes in one room? Overcrowding and a lack of space is a huge issue and the resources and skills of teachers are being stretched to the limit. What I saw was not an ideal environment in which to deliver education. The teachers and staff working in that school are working above and beyond to ensure that the children do not lose out.

The rigid pupil threshold for the allocation of an additional teacher is posing a huge problem for Moyasta national school and other schools as they strive to expand. For the past three years, Moyasta national school has fallen short of the ever increasing pupil-teacher ratio for small schools. The school's enrolment projections for next year are very positive in that it expects to have 57 pupils. However, in order to meet the criteria for an additional teacher, the school is obliged to give a year's notice to the Department, which very much limits its case. This process is too restrictive and needs to be more flexible. I have previously raised this with the Minister and intend to raise it with him again. Account must be taken of population dynamics which fluctuate from time to time, particularly in rural Ireland. Education in rural areas should not be determined solely by numbers. Families should not be penalised for living in rural Ireland. Education should be determined by the role that the school plays in maintaining and shaping our rural communities. This is extremely important.

On the issue of pupil-teacher ratios, I hope the Minister will not seek to increase that ratio in the forthcoming budget. It is an issue of real concern for pupils and teachers.

It is timely in the context of the forthcoming budget, the return of pupils to school and the current media focus on education, that we are discussing education in the House.

Much of the work in which I am engage at community level is related to education in terms of meetings with primary and secondary schools in relation to bringing building projects to the fore. An issue not highlighted in the discussion thus far is that of people with severe to profound disabilities who leave the education sector. It should not be forgotten that there are people in the education sector who despite adversity are succeeding in overcoming their challenges. They are doing so well it must be noted. It is important that element of education, which is considerable and costly, remains in place.

All of us in this House are pro-education. There is not a person here who wishes to see money diverted from education, changes in class sizes or resources constrained. However, we live in the real world where things have to happen. I am confident that the decisions made by the Minister for Education and Skills over the past two years were the right ones. The Minister has made mistakes, admitted he did so and corrected them. He has shown that he is an open, reasonable and accommodating Minister. I commend him on his ability to be flexible.

On reading the Sinn Féin motion I was struck by the reference therein to Article 26 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which relates to education. Article 10 of that declaration deals with the right to a fair trial and Article 5 provides that no one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. When discussing politics in this House our focus should be on all human rights.

While I would not disagree with a great deal of what is stated in the Sinn Féin motion, in particular in terms of international standards, are we really expected to commend the Northern Ireland Minister for Education, Mr. John O'Dowd, for his work in education in Northern Ireland? As a representative of a constituency that is urban and rural, I and the Government have been lambasted by Sinn Féin activists in regard to the changes made to the pupil-teacher ratios for small schools. This is nothing compared to what the Minister for Education in the North, Mr. John O'Dowd, is doing. He has explicitly stated that any school in a rural area with fewer than 105 pupils must close because it is not viable or sustainable. There is much talk about the differences between the North and the South. This is Sinn Féin policy by a second consecutive Sinn Féin Minister. Sinn Féin is saying one thing in the North and another in the South. This is what it is doing in respect of education, economics and every other element of politics. It is populism.

I do not propose to support any motion that commends the Minister for Education in the North, Mr. John O'Dowd, on any of the work he is doing.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. Education is one of the fundamental tenets by which we measure how we, as a society, have progressed socially and economically since the foundation of this State. The appetite among people in the country to invest in education and educate their children, which is intrinsically linked with better futures for everybody, is how we measure education and how by virtue of the policies of successive Governments and Ministers for Education, it has served this country. The current Minister, Deputy Quinn, supported by the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, is doing that portfolio justice.

The Minister has not dropped the baton. However, we need to take stock. The UN declaration and international charters are referenced in the motion. Let us take stock and be realistic. We have an excellent and accessible educational system. We continue to strive for excellence because there is always more we need to know in relation to education. Our system is fundamentally a good one. I commend the Minister on his courage in tackling educational issues and, as stated by Deputy Nolan, for not being afraid to revisit issues if needs be and to listen to differing views. The Minister is doing all of this while faced with implementing difficult budgets in which the amount available to him to spend on education has been reduced.

Deputy Breen spoke earlier about concerns in relation to the increase in pupil-teacher ratios. Next week, we will hear from the Union of Students in Ireland about the cuts to student grants. Another area of concern is that of students with disabilities. The Minister is faced with a tough task in terms of the division in a fair manner of his allocation. However, it is not always possible to please everybody. Somebody has to make decisions. I believe the Minister makes his decisions to the best of his ability.

I welcome the Minister's public consultation with parents and other interested parties on the inclusiveness, patronage and so on of education. I would like to see such debate take place on the floor of this House. In such debate I would ask questions like what is wrong with teaching religion in schools and what is wrong with having faith at the heart of the ethos of a school? Above all, is there a demand for it among parents? People in my area were surveyed in relation to the provision of a multidenominational school. There is no demand for it. I wonder why it was being suggested that the predominantly Roman Catholic schools in that area should change their patronage. Constituents come to me about many issues: they do not come to me about the patronage of their schools. They are very proud of their patrons.

I would like if during preparation of the budget the Minister would re-examine the exclusion of Inver national school, which even though it meets all of the criteria for DEIS has been excluded from it because of the incompetence of one person in not returning a form. On capital investment, practically no new schools are to be built in County Mayo or the west. Two schools in my area, Culleens national school and Bonniconlon national school, are in a dreadful state. There is a need for capital investment outside of the cities.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute, albeit briefly, to the debate on this important issue. For me, education is far more than children in classrooms. It is about broadening minds, using the skills of our community and assets of our State to enhance and consolidate each young person's own wish to achieve in life.

It is about helping young people to achieve their potential.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Taiwan where I requested an opportunity to study the country's educational system. I was so impressed by the attitude to education I found there that I initiated a cultural exchange. Last week, as part of this exchange, the Taiwanese representative in Ireland, Mr. Tseng, and three teachers from Taiwan visited Lucan community college where they met students and had time to discuss, mingle, integrate, share their experiences and develop a broader, international relationship.

A former parish priest in Ballyfermot, the late Father Peter Lemass, who was a friend of mine, once said that travel broadens the mind and instils in people the excitement of different cultures, attitudes and core skills. The successful cultural exchange I initiated between Taiwan and Ireland will expand into an exciting part of the education of many students in Taiwan and Lucan, under the principal of Lucan community college, Diane Birnie. I want to ensure the Government meets its responsibility to help empower young people.

I support the amendment tabled by the Minister for Education and Skills which sets out his plans for the education sector. These plans will take many years to implement, but the Minister's work thus far has been to consolidate the achievements of the education sector against the background of the economic crisis his Government inherited as a result of Fianna Fáil mismanagement.

Education requires resources, commitment, planning, policy and a vision. The Minister is the best person to lead the education system. As Minister for Finance in the rainbow coalition many years ago, he left enough money in the till to serve the needs of the education system when his Government's term concluded. After 14 years of reckless governance by the Fianna Fáil Party, we have a country in chaos. The Minister is dealing with this chaos.

It is ironic that on a night when the House is discussing a motion on education tabled by Sinn Féin, we learn that more than 650 primary schools in Northern Ireland face budget cuts under the leadership of a Sinn Féin Minister for Education.

Last Monday night, I attended an INTO meeting in the Brandon conference centre in Tralee, which was attended by approximately 350 parents and teachers who are concerned about education. This is a difficult time but we must not show self-pity. We must accept that despite austerity not being our policy, an austerity budget will be introduced as a consequence of the economic mismanagement of previous Governments. I remind Deputies that a number of so-called Independent Deputies backed previous Fianna Fáil-led Governments every step of the way and, as such, they are as culpable as the Fianna Fáil Deputies who sat in this Chamber during that period.

I find it difficult at the best of times to listen Sinn Féin condemn our policy of seeking to fix problems. Sinn Féin is directly in charge of education in Northern Ireland. Under the current Minister for Education, Mr. John O'Dowd, and his predecessors, Catríona Ruane and Martin McGuinness, one of the most controversial elements of the party's policy has been the so-called sustainable schools policy which has resulted in the wholesale closure of schools. The cuts being imposed in the education budget in Northern Ireland will amount to €630 million between 2011 and 2015, which is a much higher figure per capita than the cuts in this part of the country. The third level education contribution paid by students is also higher in Northern Ireland than it is in the Republic.

Under a Sinn Féin Minister, dozens of primary schools face closure or amalgamation and the future of hundreds of other primary schools has been cast into doubt as a result of a review of all primary schools carried out by the Minister. Sixteen schools, including ten primary Catholic schools, are to close, with six Catholic primary schools closing in the Southern Education and Library Board area alone. Five state schools and one preparatory school have been told they are to close, bringing to 87 the number of schools that have been closed by Sinn Féin Ministers for Education in the past ten years. A further 45 schools will be amalgamated, including 16 Catholic schools, 20 state controlled schools and nine schools in Belfast. More than 300 schools face further review and possible closure or merger on an area or parish basis.

It is amazing that Sinn Féin has the audacity to come down here and tell us at every juncture that what we are doing is completely wrong.

Where does the Deputy think we are from?

I am referring to the people who are governing Northern Ireland. They may be hard to take for Sinn Féin Deputies but the points I make are fact. Not one of them is wrong, yet we have people from Northern Ireland coming down here and telling us we are mismanaging our country.

I was born and bred in Dublin.

This country is trying to solve its problems. It has autonomy and will gain full autonomy.

I have differences with many Deputies, including on the forthcoming adjustment. I do not agree with a budget cut of €3.1 billion and would prefer a figure closer to €2.5 billion. I ask back bench Deputies from both coalition parties to push for such an outcome-----

Where is the Deputy going with this?

-----as the lower figure would allow for a smaller adjustment in education than is being suggested. If the final figure is €2.5 billion rather than €3.1 billion, the reductions in expenditure should be implemented in Departments other than the Departments of Education and Skills and Health.

I am pleased to contribute to the debate on the Sinn Féin motion. Deputies on all sides recognise the importance of education as a means of investment in helping the country to recover. It is only natural that our economic circumstances require many difficult choices to be made by the Minister in the coming weeks. I commend the Minister on having done precisely that in recent years when he chose to invest €12 million in the numeracy and literacy strategy and €40 million in high speed broadband for post-primary schools. I also welcome his commitment to invest €2 billion in schools building projects, including €52 million to replace prefabricated school buildings which will reduce rental costs by 25%. That hundreds or perhaps thousands of prefabricated school buildings were constructed during the Celtic tiger era is indicative of the bad choices that were made when resources were plentiful. The Government must now make the correct choices at a time of extremely limited resources.

One of the greatest challenges facing the Minister is to protect the pupil-teacher ratio in primary and post-primary schools. There is a view that the pupil-teacher ratio will be the subject of review in the forthcoming budget. I urge the Minister to continue to perform the miracle of the loaves and fishes by protecting the current pupil-teacher ratio. It is vital that Ireland continues to have a highly educated workforce because we often hear that it is this that acts as a magnet for inward investment. Protecting the pupil-teacher ratio must be one of the key features of the budget as it will underpin the advantages our educational system enjoys.

Deputy Pat Breen referred to the difficulties facing small schools. I come from a rural constituency where we face the same problem. The Minister has shown some flexibility by allowing smaller schools to continue operating. While some amalgamations will be necessary, I urge the Minister to continue his flexible policy.

Nelson Mandela once stated that education is the most important weapon we can use to change the world, and he was right. Education is important and the purpose of the education system, if it is to be successful, must be to create future thinkers and entrepreneurs. The system must also be underpinned by professional, competent teachers, as is the case here.

The cynicism evident in parts of the Sinn Féin motion beggars belief. The text does not set out a roadmap for funding education, nor does it provide a clear pathway to provide the €8.5 billion the Government must find for education and skills expenditure.

Some 75% of the Department's budget goes on pay and pensions and will not be touched. However, we have a Minister who is committed to reform, to innovation and to ensuring that education remains pivotal to the country's recovery.

Like Deputy O'Brien, I attended the INTO meeting in Cork on Monday night. I commend the teachers, parents and members of boards of management who spoke at what was a very difficult meeting for them. They expressed their concerns about the pupil-teacher ratio and their conditions of service. In articulating their concerns and fears there was a great sense of commitment by the men and women who spoke which underscores the highly professional people we have at our disposal.

There is great concern over class sizes. As a classroom teacher for 16 years, I know that class sizes matter. A classroom is a compendium of the life of the community in which we live. There are bright pupils who must be allowed to prosper, students who are academically challenged and who must be nourished and nurtured, and there are moderate or average students, like me, who need to be pushed and cajoled. That is why it is important to maintain class sizes. Within that school environment there is a huge opportunity to build the creative people, who, as the Taoiseach has said, can make this country the best small country in which to do business.

Our challenge is to marry the schoolteacher, such as those who spoke at Monday's meeting and articulated their fears and concerns, with the child who comes into that classroom full of life and energy, looking forward to a world where he or she can be that Irish person living within Ireland. That is the challenge we must face when we speak about 1916 and 2016. It is about ending the scourge of education and ensuring that our educated have a career pathway at home. We should not need to send people abroad to work when they can be here where they can have education which is centred upon themselves as a student. Child-centred education is what we are about.

It is important that the motion focuses the mind because it is about the child and the student. At the same time it is about ensuring we have an education system that is fit for purpose. We have a Minister who will be innovative, will challenge and will pursue new and creative reform in the curriculum. Tonight's motion, as with previous Sinn Féin motions, does not present any alternative, which is disappointing. Given what that party does in the North, it is ironic that there is no counterproposal from Sinn Féin.

I call Deputy Ó Snodaigh, who is sharing time with Deputies Ó Caoláin, Mac Lochlainn and McDonald.

Ba mhaith liom ar dtús mo bhuíochas a ghabháil le mo chomhghleacaí, an Teachta O'Brien, as ucht an rúin tábhachtach seo a chur os ár gcomhair. This comprehensive and detailed motion starkly illustrates the raft of cuts that have impacted on the State education sector. Our motion gives the lie to claims by Fine Gael and especially the Labour Party. It is a pity that the two Labour Deputies most critical of Sinn Féin have scurried out of the Chamber in case they might hear something that would put the record straight. Perhaps they might bother to read the Official Report afterwards to see exactly what the situation is.

Fine Gael and Labour have not prioritised education since coming to power two and a half years ago as they claimed they would. Their predecessor, Fianna Fáil, could not even come up with a counter-motion or an amendment beyond the three lines it produced in response to our detailed proposal. It highlights that party's discomfort in dealing with education given what it did when in government and the atrocious effect of its punitive and regressive cuts which have greatly impacted on every facet of our education system. When the people elected a new government in the hope that some of those cuts would be reversed, they did not expect that they would be compounded, as has happened since the Government came into office.

We have heard the usual ignorant bleating by some Government backbenchers - mainly Labour, but also Fine Gael. Deputies Nolan and Spring do not want the facts to get in the way of the fiction contained in the internal Labour Party briefing that is circulated in advance of any Sinn Féin motion. They are ignorant of the facts and have never taken an interest in what is happening in the Six Counties except to have a go at Sinn Féin. It is a pity they did not take the same interest over the years because the island might be considerably further down the road if they had. There is a substantial drop in the school-going population in the Six Counties in contrast with what is happening in this State. No school in the Six Counties is closed without six criteria being agreed with the parents, the local board of management and the Department, whereas in this State the only criterion used to close a school is financial. They are being closed on that basis and on that basis alone.

The previous speaker mentioned Nelson Mandela. God love him, he obviously does not understand what Nelson Mandela meant in saying that education is the most important weapon. If it is the most important weapon to deal with the future, the Government should invest in it, and it should not reduce investment in it unless its purpose is to undermine the education system.

Let me put the record straight on finances in the Six Counties. The Stormont Assembly does not have fiscal power and has never had it because of the failure of Fianna Fáil-led Governments to deal with that issue, to lobby for it, to demand it and campaign for it during the Good Friday Agreement talks or subsequently. It never called for a transfer of fiscal powers. If it had, we might have it and we might be closer to reunification on this island. Maybe then decisions could be taken in the interest of the Irish people with a budget in mind. Instead, at the moment, the Assembly is hamstrung by decisions taken by a Tory Government in Westminster. Unlike the slash and burn policies of the Government, the Minister, Mr. John O'Dowd, has redirected almost £400 million back into schools despite his own budget being drastically reduced as a result of British Tory Party cuts.

Another fact that seems to elude the Labour Party internal briefing document - and the Fine Gael one given that Deputy Buttimer mentioned it - is that the Minister, Mr. John O'Dowd, has no responsibility for further education and third level education, which falls to a different Minister. Criticism does not lie on the lap of the Minister, Mr. John O'Dowd, on this occasion. If they want to criticise somebody they should get the facts right.

The pivotal role the three Sinn Féin Ministers, who were mentioned by Deputy Spring, have played in the North is shown by the 10% increase in the number of young people achieving good grades in the GCSE O-level and A-level examinations and the substantial increase in the number of young people gaining third level and university qualifications. In addition, primary schools in the North have now been ranked as the top performing in the English-speaking world in literacy and numeracy. Those achievements should be contrasted with what is happening throughout this State where the imposition of countless cuts in pay, allowances and essential supports can be attributed to the Government's austerity measures that have directly impacted in the classroom. We are seeing the effects of it in increased numbers of students dropping out from schools in working-class areas in particular.

On this point alone, the Minister, Deputy Quinn, and his Government colleagues could learn much from the approach being taken to improve education in the Six Counties. I mention two examples, the expansion of the free school meals system and changes to the school uniform grant criteria. Some 100,000 low-income families now benefit from these essential supports. That 100,000 can be contrasted with the fact that when direct rule was in place only 60,000 benefited.

Funding has been increased for schools dealing with high numbers of disadvantaged young people.

For example, at preschool level the Sure Start service currently benefits more than 34,000 children aged between zero and four years. It will be significantly expanded in the coming year. Fully £15.6 million will be provided over the next three years for 267 graduate teachers to provide additional help to pupils who are at risk of underachievement in the key stage two assessment and the GCSE English and mathematics subjects. In the next two years a total of £2 million will be spent on new community education initiatives and programmes to address high levels of educational underachievement in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.

I turn now to this State and the absolute failure and the consequences of the cuts that it has imposed. The area on which I wish to concentrate is the plight of Traveller children. Their treatment at the hands of this Government and its predecessors is a damning indictment of those Administrations. I demonstrate this by putting on the record the facts as they pertain to schools in my area in Ballyfermot, because these reflect exactly what is happening to Travellers in schools.

Between 2006 and 2011 St. Dominic's Secondary School managed to achieve 100% retention of members of the Travelling community who attended, with three members of the Travelling community progressing to further education following successful completion of the leaving certificate programme, something unheard of several years ago. The primary schools have been successful in retaining the boys to the end of first class, at which point they transfer to the De La Salle national school, which has attained full retention of the girls to the end of primary school, at which point they have successfully transferred to St. Dominic's secondary school. That success has been due to commitment from a number of partners, including the school community, school management, the visiting teacher for Travellers, the resource teacher for Travellers, guidance counsellors, classroom co-ordinators, Barnardos, the Ballyfermot Traveller action programme and the teachers and pupils themselves. However, what has happened since 2011? That was the key date. Since then they have lost the visiting teacher for Travellers, the resource teacher for Travellers and the Barnardos Labre Park project. There are diminished resources in terms of support programmes from other groups such as the Ballyfermot Traveller action programme. There is increased poverty and alienation in the Traveller community and decreasing health and mental health among students and their parents. This has an impact on their attendance as well.

There is an issue with Traveller boys not being in school, and this has a direct impact on the girls in Traveller communities who are more successful or who continue for longer in school. All of this has resulted in an increased dropout level and lower retention of children. This is not only the case in secondary school; we are now beginning to see it in primary school also. Currently there are no Traveller students attending school within the senior cycle and that represents a dramatic change in the space of two years. This is a consequence of the policies of this and the previous Government.

There are consequences in terms of attendance. Attendance is 11% lower for students from the Traveller community in primary schools. Attendance is 21% lower for Traveller students in the junior cycle attending secondary school. This is not particular to Travellers, in case anyone suggests I am picking one group in our society over another. It is also seen and reflected among working-class communities, those who are disadvantaged and in particular those who do not have the benefit of having parents who went on to do the junior or leaving certificate. Often these people are dependent on social welfare and have been affected by the DEIS cuts and other cuts in education, including those listed in the amendment. There is a need to continue to break the cycle of poverty. One of the ways to break the cycle of poverty, as Nelson Mandela said, is to educate people. If we fail to invest properly in education, fail to address people's needs and fail to address poverty in the future, we condemn young children in our society to a life of poverty, unemployment and isolation, or, in some cases, no life at all, because they end up taking their lives through suicide because they have no hope.

The organisation that advocates on behalf of the Traveller community, Pavee Point, released a document earlier this year called Travelling with Austerity. It highlighted that the cut to Traveller education is of the scale of minus 86%. This is an absolute scandal, and when added to all the other cuts that have affected this marginalised part of a society, it is a damning indictment of the Government.

Casfaidh mé anois ar feadh tamaill bhig ar cheist eile atá ardaithe agam sa Teach seo cúpla uair thar na blianta. Tá gá anois, agus bhí i gcónaí, níos mó tacaíochta a thabhairt do Ghaelscoileanna agus do scoileanna Gaeltachta ná a thabhairt do ghnáthscoileanna eile. Tá fadhbanna agus dúshláin bhreise acu toisc go bhfuil siad ag obair i dtír ina bhfuil an Béarla chun cinn. Níl na háiseanna nó na téacsleabhair chéanna ar fáil dóibh, mar atá sna scoileanna Béarla. Ba chóir cás speisialta a dhéanamh dóibh de bharr na deacrachtaí sin, agus an t-athrú a rinne an Rialtas maidir leis an gcóimheas daltaí le múinteoir i nGaelscoileanna a athrú ar ais. Ba cheart an buntáiste a bhí ann a athbhunú chun a chinntiú nach mbeidh na Gaelscoileanna agus na scoileanna Gaeltachta thíos leis.

I have said that it is important to invest in the future and in our children. We lay the groundwork through investment. When one invests in something one gets a return and when one lays the groundwork one will get a return in the future. If we do not, we will condemn a nation to poverty or emigration, and people will be unable to succeed to the level of which they are well capable. Our children are capable of reaching a potential well above what was laid out for many of us when we were in school. I believe that through investment we can lay the future not only of our society but also of our economy. It is more important to invest in education than to invest in corrupt banks. Given the opportunities that new technologies grant us, all schools should have an enhanced programme and roll-out of such new technologies because it allows pupils to absorb knowledge, broaden their horizons, learn new languages and learn from other experiences.

I urge all Deputies to reconsider the motion and whether they will vote against it. It is a good motion and it commits every Member to improving the education of our children, the children of this nation.

I commend my colleague Deputy Jonathan O’Brien on his introduction of this comprehensive motion on education. The current recession is a time when everything possible should be done not only to maintain our support for education but to enhance it. There will be no true recovery without the empowerment of people through education, particularly the empowerment of those in our society who are disadvantaged. A good education system can help to overcome disadvantage and break the cycle of generational economic deprivation.

Far from breaking that cycle, the austerity policies begun by Fianna Fáil and continued by the current Government are accelerating it. This is reflected in the increased numbers of people applying for the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance. More people are seeking help from a fund that this Government reduced last year and again this year.

Decent standards in our education system are simply not sustainable if the Government continues to cut education spending, as it has done since it came to office. Anything in the order of the expected or speculated €100 million cut in 2014 will be a further damaging blow to educational services for children throughout the State, with the least advantaged pupils and families being worst hit. There is a real concern now that the Government's approach will result in a further increase in the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools. With an average of 26 pupils per teacher in the State, we have the second highest pupil-teacher ratio in the European Union.

Moreover, I believe we face a turning back of the clock by decades to a position that obtained in my own time and for many years thereafter in which classes in primary education had 30 children or more. Already, a shocking 23.5% of primary school children in mainstream schools in this State are in classes of 30 or more. This is a shocking fact and the numbers have continued to increase in recent years.

The Minister, Deputy Quinn, states in his amendment that the Government has just published an action plan to combat bullying in schools. This is commendable, I welcome it and have spoken on this issue many times in this House. As the Irish National Teachers Organisation has pointed out, however, the challenge to combat bullying is made all the more difficult by increased class sizes. This is a no-brainer of a claim and it stands clear to everyone that this would be the case. On the issue of bullying and cyberbullying among 12 to 18 year olds in particular, I take the opportunity to commend the Waterford Comhairle na nÓg representatives who made what I can only describe as an outstanding presentation on this sad and tragic issue in the audio-visual room in Leinster House this afternoon. I say a very sincere "well done" to the young speakers involved, who were excellent.

I welcome the formation of the National Alliance for Primary Education, comprising management, parents, teachers and principals, which aims to halt Government plans to cut primary education in this year’s budget. The new alliance includes the Church of Ireland Board of Education, the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association, Educate Together, An Foras Patrúnachta, Gaelscoileanna, the Irish National Teachers Organisation, the Irish Primary Principals Network, the National Association of Boards of Management in Special Education and the National Parents Council Primary. The National Alliance for Primary Education has stated that any attempt to cut bluntly primary education is a direct attack on children and their constitutional right to education. It is urging the Government to leave primary education alone and it questions how schools can equip today's generation for tomorrow if they are drained of vital resources. All Deputies will by now have received the National Alliance for Primary Education postcards with the message "Children Shouldn’t Pay – protect primary education – protect our future". I endorse fully that message and that campaign and I urge the Ministers, Deputies Quinn, Noonan and Howlin, as well as the Taoiseach, to act on it.

For all pupils, the cuts represent a threat to their education and to their future. However, this is definitely the case for pupils with special needs. All pupils have the right to have their needs assessed as early as possible and to have the additional resources they require allocated to them. Obviously, there are limited resources, but every effort must be made to put in place the resource teachers, hours and special needs assistants that pupils require. In conclusion, as the motion states, the Government should increase the number of teaching resource hours and end the cap on special needs assistants to match the needs of a rising school population and break the cycle of deprivation, marginalisation and educational disadvantage through the promotion of fairness and equity. Iarraim ar gach Teachta tacú leis an rún seo.

As a proud Irish republican, I believe that all citizens are equal and that education is a fundamental right and not a privilege. I have often heard the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Quinn, use the terminology "citizens", and it is right that he does. However, with that terminology comes its natural extension that citizens have a right to an education that takes them on the path to achieve their full potential.

The way in which Sinn Féin views education certainly is not shared, on the basis of the evidence, by the present Government or its Fianna Fáil predecessors, whose past track record and current policies are ensuring that only the more wealthy sections of society will be able to progress to higher education. This is a view that is reflected by a recent survey carried out by the Irish League of Credit Unions showing that parents increasingly struggle to pay for their children's third level education. The average monthly outgoings of a student amount to €1,000. This is the unacceptable reality, in which the increasingly punitive costs of attending college mean that in the forthcoming academic year alone, an estimated one student in 12 will be forced to drop out of his or her course because of financial pressures. Countless more aspiring students will not even be able to consider higher education as an option because of their limited income. How ironic that it is a Labour Party Minister who is overseeing and implementing such regressive cuts, which are institutionalising a two-tier education system. The financial barriers that are denying access to a third-level education contradict much of what the Labour Party is supposed to stand for. It also makes a mockery of the Government's claims to be prioritising a knowledge-based economy that supposedly is so important for our economic recovery.

In this context, I refer to the issue of masters studies. How many times have Members come across people who wish to continue their education by completing their masters degrees? However, while the Government will not fund such studies, it will pay them €188 per week to be on the dole. If one does the sums, it would cost less to allow them to continue with their education and to have a better chance of being re-employed. This single example alone demonstrates it simply does not make sense.

All this rhetoric perhaps is unsurprising and I refer to the famous signing of the USI banner. While I acknowledge the Minister has stated that he profoundly regrets so doing, nevertheless he signed that pledge and then within weeks of being in government, there was a reneging on that promise and a U-turn. The students will not forget that and each year, when they lobby the political parties, as they will again soon, they will point to that episode. This is the reason Sinn Féin has brought forward its proposals for equality budgeting because political promises can be and are broken. The only way in which to protect citizens' rights is to have equality impact assessments of budgetary measures that are in place. I note this is the Minister's party policy, against which he voted when Sinn Féin tabled the Bill to give effect to such measures. I urge the Minister to reflect on that. People today sought to have their pledges signed and Sinn Féin did so. I assure the Minister that Sinn Féin intends to honour these pledges in respect of equality budgeting if it ever has the chance to sit on the Government side of the House.

The importance of the maintenance grants cannot be overstated as approximately-----

I must ask the Deputy to watch his time.

Very well. I have many more pages to read as there is so much more I could say. I believe the Minister knows in his heart that the cuts he has implemented are wrong. I heard him speak of the €100 million he may be obliged to cut and how he is fighting to lessen that amount. The Minister is an intelligent man and knows this is absolutely crazy stuff. During a recession and private sector contraction, the role of the Government is to invest, particularly in the education system, to ensure that people can prepare for when the upturn comes, as well as investing in infrastructure. These measures are established rules of thumb and the Minister is aware that what is happening at present does not make sense. As I always point out in such debates, I do not presume that Sinn Féin has a monopoly over decency. What is happening, however, is indecent, is wrong and does not make sense. At some point, I hope the Labour Party recovers its soul and fights to stop this in government.

The Minister's recent claim that a cut of €100 million would be within what he termed the outer reach of potential cuts to the education budget for next year will be of little comfort to parents and even less to their children. Regardless of whether it is €50 million or €100 million, an already overstretched and inadequately resourced education system is to be undermined further on the Government's watch.

I can tell the Minister what is on the minds of parents in my constituency of Dublin Central. They seek an absolute assurance that their children will get a proper educational opportunity. They seek to ascertain that the education system will be resourced properly and protected. While schools across the State have been hit hard by cuts to the budget, the challenges facing schools within disadvantaged areas such as Dublin's north inner city are particularly acute.

The Minister, Deputy Quinn, has stated that for this year, hundreds of additional resource teachers who may be required to meet extra demand for special needs students have not been budgeted for and that he will not know the scale of the problem until this month, which is just weeks before the budget announcement in October.

Education has been fundamentally damaged by this Government through the withdrawal of guidance services, teachers spending less time teaching due to extra administrative duties and the loss of classroom teachers from schools. However, in a sense this is just the tip of the iceberg. Cuts imposed by the Government, particularly in the areas of health and education, have been deep and the fallout is all around us. In my constituency, children of school-going age who require speech and language therapy must wait up to two years for that therapy. I am told by the Minister for Education and Skills that this is not a matter for him but for the Minister for Health, as the HSE delivers the service. The Minister is nodding his affirmation of that. However, this should and must be a matter for the Minister for Education and Skills. In addition, it should be a matter of real concern to him.

It is, but I do not have control over it.

Consider a child who starts in junior infants class with a speech and language difficulty. If the difficulty is unidentified and untreated for two years, it will become a real and substantial problem for the child. Additional supports will be required for the child, which means the costs are increased. Alternatively, scarce resources are overstretched. This type of situation is happening in every part of the State yet, astonishingly, the two relevant Ministers do not appear to be even talking to each other about it.

I raise this issue specifically as an example of how fundamentally public services have become unstuck. If the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Ruairí Quinn, continues to view public sector reform through the prism of the bottom line, he will leave behind a system that will take decades to fix. There is little point in telling the Dáil time and again that Fianna Fáil left the country in pieces. We know that; it is a fact. However, we also know that this Government is now complicit in and party to deepening that damage. The problem is that when this Government stepped into the breach it did not usher in its democratic revolution. Instead, it took Fianna Fáil's so-called recovery strategy and began to implement it.

We all know that spending must be reduced to address the deficit, but not to the degree carried out by this Government and not by affecting the same people repeatedly, particularly our children and young students. What is required is that the Minister come to the Dáil with a strategy for fixing the education system during the remainder of this Government's term of office. All the rhetoric about lifelong learning or a knowledge economy becomes farcical and lacks any credibility when it comes from the mouth of an Administration that pauperises the education system.

I thank Sinn Féin for tabling this important motion for consideration. It is always good to see education on the political agenda. Education is a subject of immense interest and importance for all of us, whether we are students, parents, educators or legislators.

In its programme for Government this Government set out its aim to build a knowledge society, for education to be at the heart of a more cohesive and equal society and for it to be the engine for sustainable economic growth in the future. The achievement by the Government of its aims for education and training and of promoting investment in education, however, must take account of the economic reality we face at present. It is a reality that obliges us to significantly narrow the gap between our spending and the taxes we take in. We cannot continue to borrow €1 billion per month to pay for public services.

However, this Government has sought to protect front-line education services as far as possible, including through protecting pupil-teacher ratios. I welcome the acknowledgement by some Deputies during the debate of the efforts being made by the Government in this regard. I also welcome the broad agreement on tackling a number of key issues, including back-to-school costs, literacy and numeracy and special educational needs. It is true that the forthcoming budget will be difficult. The exact details will be worked out by the Government over the next few weeks. The contributions made by Deputies during this debate will help to inform that budgetary process. It is good to have a wide range of inputs to the process and to be willing to listen to advice and experience from elsewhere. Deputy O'Brien would concur that both the Minister, Deputy Quinn, and I, in drafting the new legislation on SOLAS, were open to suggestions and innovations emanating from all quarters. We drew the conclusion that a good idea is a good idea, irrespective of its source. The level of co-operation and collaboration that occurred on that legislation can certainly continue in the future if everybody is open to that.

As well as seeking to protect expenditure on education and training, the Government has put in place a number of important initiatives designed to improve educational and training outcomes. One important structural initiative in my area of responsibility is the major consolidation of our 43 VECs into 16 ETBs and the aforementioned replacement of FÁS with the new organisation, SOLAS. This will lead to a coherent, high quality further education and training sector. Additionally, in respect of further education and training, I am driving efforts to provide increased opportunities for upskilling and retraining of individuals. That upskilling and retraining is happening in close co-operation with the significant number of experts across our education system, in the training and further education sectors, and in collaboration with the many people in industry who are more than willing to collaborate with us in the development of curricula in the future.

Since 2011, the Springboard programme has provided more than 15,000 part-time, higher education places for unemployed and previously self-employed people. We have provided 6,000 Springboard places in 2013 alone, with funding of €22 million allocated for that. In addition, approximately 1,500 places have been provided under two rounds of the ICT skills conversion programme, with a further allocation of €5 million made for 2013. Also, funding of €20 million has been provided for Momentum, the new labour market education and training fund, where a further 6,000 places will be provided in 2013. The action plan to combat bullying in schools, which received very positive comment in some contributions, was launched earlier this year and is being supported with an annual budget of €500,000.

The bottom line is that we are operating in an incredibly difficult environment, not unlike the environment described by some of our Sinn Féin colleagues when they spoke of how they must operate within severely limited budgetary conditions. There is no difference on our side; we face the same challenge. Ultimately, we are trying to work within those very limited resources and to ensure we can protect our children and all our students, as best we can, from the harshest winds of recession. It is clear that this Government has embarked upon a significant range of reforms in the education sector. Our commitment to protecting the education budget to the greatest degree possible, which is clear for all to see, is evident from our actions. I support the amendment to the motion.

First, I thank all the contributors to this debate. The number of speakers is an indication of the importance of education in the forthcoming budget for Members on all sides of the House.

The Minister quite rightly corrected us last night on the figures we quoted in respect of the OECD. However, the figure he quoted is from 2010 as well, so that figure is almost three years old. Given the level of cuts in recent years, we could spend another hour debating what is the actual spend on education relative to our GDP. The bigger question, however, is whether what we are investing in education is being directed to the right places. Is it tackling educational disadvantage and is it improving our educational outcomes? Are we getting value for money? That is the bigger debate we must have, be it in this Chamber or in the committee. Let us move away from the statistics and get down to the nuts and bolts of the matter.

I would welcome that.

We look forward to debating that in the committee.

The amendment tabled by the Minister states: "education services have been protected despite the immense challenges posed to the financial sustainability of our nation".

I am of the view that not even the Minister believes that to be a credible statement. How could anyone say that our education services have been protected in light of the fact that in 2012 some €132 million was taken out of the system and last year €77 million was removed? We do not know how much is going to be taken this year but it could be anything up to €100 million. This means that almost €300 million would have been removed in three years. It is simply disingenuous for anyone, particularly a Minister, to state that education services have been protected despite this level of cuts.

The Minister stated that there is a need to inject an element of realism. Let us do that. The reality is that the education system is being dismantled cut by cut. One need only consider some of the measures which have been introduced since the Minister came to office. I refer to the change in staffing schedules for small schools, cuts to maintenance grants, the increase in student contribution fees, the scrapping of the minor works grant, changes to school transport schemes, changes to the PTR, the loss of guidance counsellors and cuts in further education. As a result of all of this, the teacher populating is becoming increasingly demoralised. That is the reality which exists.

The budget is approximately three weeks away, yet we do not know how much is going to have to be saved within the education budget. How do the Minister, his Ministers of State and the Department plan ahead in such circumstances? How can they contemplate the long-term strategic plan everyone wants to put in place in the area of education if they do not even know the type of savings they are going to be obliged to make? In the next three weeks, the Minister is going to be given a figure and he will then make a number of decisions. Some of those decisions are going to be rushed as a result of the fact that we do not yet know the exact amount of savings it will be necessary to make. This brings into focus the need for budget-proofing announcements. Deputy Mac Lochlainn brought forward legislation prior to the summer recess which would give effect to the latter. We have seen the consequences relating to announcements made by the Minister's Department in the two most recent budgets. In that context, no impact analysis was carried out and the decisions in question had to be reversed. In fairness, the Minister took people's views on board and made those reversals.

The Minister placed a great deal of emphasis on the success of the DEIS programme during his contribution. He stated:

Retention rates in disadvantaged schools have improved even more markedly due in large part to the supports offered through the DEIS action plan for educational inclusion. I will be pleased to discuss the reasons the action plan is working on another occasion. Retention rates for DEIS second level schools increased by almost 12% over a five year period, between pupils who entered second level in 2001 and those who entered in 2006. There is clear evidence that the DEIS programme is having a positive effect in tackling educational disadvantage and is an example of funding well spent.

Despite the latter claim, when the Government introduced its first budget the Minister wanted to dismantle the DEIS programme.

No, I wanted to remove some of the extra posts which some schools had.

The Minister - in his own words - went after a programme that "is having a positive effect in tackling educational disadvantage and is an example of funding well spent".

No, I went after legacy posts.

In order that decisions such as those to which I refer will not continue to be made, impact analyses will have to be carried out in respect of every budgetary decision.

When referring to the higher education sector the Minister stated:

The Department supports a range of measures which facilitate greater levels of participation by disadvantaged students, mature students and students with disabilities. The principal support in financial terms is provided under the student grant scheme. Approximately 42% of students in full-time higher education in the 2011-12 academic year were in receipt of a student grant.

Those are noble words but to echo the Minister's other comment to which I referred earlier, let us inject some realism into the debate. Representatives from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul addressed the Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection earlier today and they indicated that even those students who are receiving the full maintenance grant are finding it increasingly difficult to remain in college. The Government took a decision to cut the maintenance grant and this placed more pressure on students in the context of their trying to remain in college. It is estimated that one in 12 students from disadvantaged backgrounds are being forced to drop out of higher education because they just cannot afford to continue. I reiterate that even those students who have been awarded full grants are being forced to drop out as a result of the financial pressures which obtain. The Minister must recognise that cutting the maintenance grant will only entrench the educational inequalities that exist in the State.

In the context of the PTR, the Government amendment refers to "the protection by this Government of the standard pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools and free post-primary schools since taking office". In theory, that is correct. However, let us again inject some realism into the debate. The reality is that class sizes are increasing as a result of the fact that the student population is increasing. One in four students at primary level is in a class of more than 30. During my initial contribution I referred to the fact that there is a class of 41 students at one primary school in Cork. A great amount of effort has been devoted to changing the primary school curriculum to an activity-based model. The difficulty is that when there are so many students in small classrooms, teachers find themselves under extreme pressure in the context of their ability to teach that curriculum. That is the reality which exists.

The change from an ex-quota model of career guidance counselling to an in-quota one led to an increase in the PTR in many post-primary schools. Again, that is the reality. It is all well and good to state that the PTRs which exist at primary and post-primary level have not been touched but the actual position is different. Reports relating to the changes in the career guidance system indicate that the level of one-on-one interaction between counsellors and students has decreased by almost 50%. That is a significant loss because students are being hampered in terms of their ability to access the services they require.

Successive reports from Barnardos and various other groups have highlighted the increase in the costs relating to children returning to school. I accept that it is not proper to the Minister's Department but the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance has been cut. This has placed even more pressure on parents and the situation is quickly getting out of hand for many of them. The Minister has adopted a very hands-off approach to this matter. I say that for a number of reasons. Instead of using the power he has under the relevant legislation to direct schools to introduce generic school uniforms, he has decided to go down the road of encouraging parents' associations and councils to work with school boards of management and patron groups in order to try to address the matter. That is all well and good but if a solution cannot be found, then I would encourage the Minister to intervene and use the power available to him under the Education (Welfare) Act.

I share the Deputy's concern but I am not sure I have such powers.

The Minister does possess such powers. I checked the position with the Oireachtas Library and Research Service, which forwarded to me a paper which categorically stated that the Minister had the power to issue directives to schools in this regard. In that context, in 2001 the then Fianna Fáil Minister for Education and Science issued directives in respect of school uniforms to patron bodies. The current Minister also possesses that power.

I have been very complimentary about a number of the initiatives the Minister has brought forward.

I thank the Deputy.

We have debated three significant items of legislation. The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) Act, the Education and Training Boards Act and the Further Education and Training Act have huge potential in the context of transforming the education system in this State and I previously congratulated the Minister on their introduction. There are some other progressive measures which the Minister has ambitions to achieve, such as the reform of the junior cycle, the implementation of the action plan on bullying and the rolling out of the literacy and numeracy strategy. These are all laudable initiatives.

The reality, however, is that those reforms will mean nothing if the Minister continues to cut education budgets. Unless he puts in place the resources to implement those reforms, they will not happen and that will be a devastating consequence of the situation in which we find ourselves. We will squander the opportunity to implement real reform unless we match it with the resources and finance.

I do not lay all the responsibility for this at the Minister's feet. There must be collective responsibility at Cabinet level when it comes to investing in education. I do not understand the way this Government works in that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance come to the Cabinet table a wag a finger at each Minister and say he or she must find so much in savings in his or her Department. There is no joined-up thinking at Cabinet level when it comes to the type of society, education system, health system and mental health services we want. As long as this Government continues to operate in a very departmentalised way with every Minister being told to find a certain amount in savings, we will never get on top of the real issues facing society.

The Cabinet needs to make a collective decision and say it needs to invest in our education system and that because its wants to cherish all the children of this nation equally, it will not cut our education budgets. That is the only way this will happen. It happened in the North where there was cross-party support for redirecting almost £400 million back into education. It has happened in other countries where political parties, both left and right, have come together and said that education is critical to economic recovery and, therefore, they will make a decision to protect education.

As I said last night, there are no hard or no easy decisions when it comes to education; there are right decisions or wrong decisions. Cutting education budgets is not a hard decision; it is simply the wrong decision. Investing in education, even in these difficult economic times, is not something which can be done easily but it can be done. We have shown how it can be done and we will do so again when we launch our pre-budget submission the week after next.

It is not an easy decision to invest in education but it is the right decision and we will reap the benefits for years to come. We only have to look at countries like Finland. The Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection visited Finland in February to look at the system in place there. The difference between Finland and Ireland, which have similar populations and pupil numbers, is that Finland made a decision in a time of recession to invest in education and it is reaping the benefits now. I implore the Minister to go back to Cabinet and convince his Cabinet colleagues that investment in education is well worth doing.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 41.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J..
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Jonathan O'Brien.
Amendment declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 74; Níl, 41.

  • Barry, Tom.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Byrne, Eric.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Collins, Áine.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Coonan, Noel.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Anne.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Keating, Derek.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lyons, John.
  • McCarthy, Michael.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Maloney, Eamonn.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
  • O'Donnell, Kieran.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Spring, Arthur.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Browne, John.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Luke 'Ming'.
  • Fleming, Tom.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Keaveney, Colm.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Jonathan O'Brien.
Question declared carried.
The Dáil adjourned at 9.25 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 26 September 2013.