I thank the Ceann Comhairle for agreeing to my request to discuss St. Mary’s girls' national school, Lucan, tonight in Dáil Éireann. I also thank the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, for attending.
I have been living in Lucan for approximately 30 years, and in very close proximity to one of the finest schools in Ireland, namely, St. Mary's girls' national school, also known as Scoil Mhuire, which is in the process of being denied its promised and long overdue building refurbishment works that have been progressing through all the stages of the procedure for many years. When the school was finally included in the schools stimulus package 2013, there appeared to be some glimmer of light, and for a number of years St. Mary's navigated its way through the protracted planning process. When I met the school principal, Mrs. Mary McIvor, before Christmas, she was pleased to confirm to me that building was scheduled to begin in February 2016, just a few short weeks away, and to conclude in late autumn 2016.
Last Thursday the entire project and all of the works undertaken, such as the inclusion in the schools stimulus package and the steady progress through the planning process, was thrown up in the air. The principal was told by officials in the Department that it has emerged that there is a competition for resources between one school and another or others and that the promised funding may not now be forthcoming. That is nothing short of disgraceful. We have told the people that things are better and that we have the fastest growing economy in Europe, yet we deny our children the basics in this school. The children have been advised through their parents to wear warm clothes because much of the heating system is no longer working. The building is in an unacceptable level of maintenance. In addition to the heating system not working, prefabs are still in place, windows are leaking and new and more acceptable bathroom facilities are required with drying facilities. The new build will solve all those ills and bring an end to the altogether unacceptable working environment for the children and staff alike. The school has never even benefited from additional and necessary works. In spite of that and the best efforts of departmental officials to cause confusion if not deny the vital capital works, Scoil Mhuire, St. Mary's girls' national school in Lucan, continues to provide a wonderful educational experience for its 680 children.
When the school principal could not contain this alarming news and felt duty bound to advise the board of management and the parents’ association, many of them contacted me last Thursday evening. I was inundated with e-mails, text messages and phone calls from concerned and, understandably in some cases, angry parents because a departmental official cast doubt over the building project and conveyed the message that funding for the proposed development may not now be available. At this very late stage of the proceedings and in the simplest terms, that is unacceptable. As the local Deputy I am at one with the principal, the board of management, the teaching staff, the parents’ association, the parents and the children - our future - in their anger and upset at setting at nought all of what the Government has said previously.
Tonight in Dáil Éireann, I ask the Minister to provide clarity and certainty on St. Mary's girls' national school, Scoil Mhuire, Lucan, to confirm that the funding is in fact in place for the long outstanding and, by now, very necessary works, and to say when the works on St. Mary’s school will commence. I also thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, for coming into the Dáil to support my representations and speech this evening.