I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the chance to raise this very important issue. It involves East Limerick Centre for Further Education and Training in Cappamore in County Limerick, an area I represent as a Deputy. The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board recently informed the college that it is seeking to cease offering 83 post-leaving certificate, PLC, places for students for the next academic year. The people of Cappamore feel very strongly about this. I want to ensure the cessation does not take place. Cappamore had a secondary school up to 2013 and thereafter it evolved into a third level institution, a college of further education, East Limerick Centre for Further Education and Training. Eighty three places were allocated under a rural remit for Cappamore and east Limerick. That is the key element to this. The places were allocated to ensure students who have completed their leaving certificate and who are living in rural east Limerick and surrounding areas, such as Moroe, Caherconlish, Cappamore itself, Bilboa and Pallas Grean, could attend college in a rural setting. We now find it has been proposed that the 83 PLC places will be transferred to Mulgrave Street in the city. The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board does fantastic work both in the city and county but it is extremely important to recognise the vital nature of the 83 places for students in a rural setting.
I met the CEO of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, Mr. George O'Callaghan, recently. He committed to carrying out a review of the decision, which I very much welcome. Furthermore, he stated the board is committed to the future of the college in Cappamore in terms of driving it forward.
I ask that the 83 places be retained. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, to confirm that the review is now under way. It should be an independent review, which is what the people of Cappamore and the surrounding areas want. We recently had a meeting with community leaders from Cappamore, led by Cappamore Development Association, and Mr. O'Callaghan to discuss this matter. Mr. O'Callaghan reiterated that a review of the places would be carried out and that they would be retained.
I want to see in the first instance a commitment to retain the 83 places and, second, a drive to create further courses on the campus of 3.5 acres. The college has a capacity of up to 210 students, which is well in excess of the 83 threatened PLC places. There are extra courses also. There is a blacksmith course, which is unique in Ireland and which operates under a City & Guilds programme, and there is a horticulture course. The key reason I am raising this issue in the Dáil this afternoon is the vital importance of the courses to Cappamore. Many of the students may not be able to travel to a city setting to avail of education. I would not like to see anybody unable to avail of PLCs and further education in the area in which he or she lives. That is the number-one criterion. It is a matter of rural rejuvenation. The college is in the heart of rural east Limerick and the 83 places need to be preserved. We need to enhance further what the college is providing. It has enormous capacity. There are 210 available places and the college is on a 3.5 acre site.