Schools Building Projects.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Callely, to the House and express my appreciation for the time he is taking to listen to the Adjournment matters.

I welcome yesterday's announcement of short-term funding to address the functionality and day to day running of St. Eunan's College. The board of management of St. Eunan's College and the school itself have asked that I raise on the Adjournment the plans envisaged for the school extension. It is now seven years since St. Eunan's College applied for an extension and a sense of disillusionment and frustration with the process has set in. What mechanism is in place to deal with the proposed extension of St. Eunan's College?

In addition, Ballyraine national school applied in the early 1980s for a school building project. What I sense from both boards of management is complete and utter frustration with the process as they have nothing to aim towards. Politicians, for example, have a date to aim for, 11 June 2004, the local elections, which gives us drive. However, there is no mechanism in the administrative procedures of the Department that sets out the timeframe for building projects. Does the "advanced architectural stage" of Ballyraine national school mean anything? The school needs a timeframe and a date which indicates when it will go to an advanced architectural stage. What are the terms of reference of the band system and the category into which St. Eunan's College falls? St. Eunan's College is in the necessary band which is below the urgent band. What are the terms of reference of the necessary band? The school has nothing to focus on and it does not know what it should aim towards. I ask the Minister of State to digress from his script.

You have certainly digressed from yours.

Perhaps the Cathaoirleach will be happy to allow him to do that to enable him to provide the House with feedback on the bands system.

On replying to the second Adjournment matter, I said I had provided two out of two. I am hoping to satisfy the House by giving it three out of three.

I thank Senator McHugh for raising the matter of St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny, and for providing me with the opportunity to respond without using a script to some of his points. The list of summer work schemes has been published. These are the works which are possible and which can be accommodated within the finite resources and timeframe available. I did not come to the House with information on Ballyraine as the school was not mentioned in the notice of this Adjournment matter. While I do not know what stage of advanced architectural planning it is at, I undertake to ensure that my officials, who are listening to the debate, will respond directly to the Senator over the next seven to ten days. I hope their response will be positive.

A full design team has been appointed and architectural planning of the major project at St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny, is progressing well. The school is listed in section 9 of the 2004 school building programme, which is published on the website of the Department of Education and Science. The proposed project is at stage one of architectural planning, which relates to site suitability and the site survey. The project has been assigned a band three rating by the Department in accordance with the published criteria for prioritising large-scale projects. I will obtain for the Senator the detail of the published criteria to allow him to inform himself of the way in which the band rating was assigned.

The Senator is correct to indicate that service providers in education and other sectors have been somewhat frustrated about the mechanism in place for large-scale projects. Rather than provide annual budgets, it is considered that a better mechanism involving multi-annual budget allocations or envelopes is required. Such a mechanism would inform service providers of exactly what money was available for a project. One of the achievements of our brilliant Minister for Finance has been the implementation of a mechanism to respond positively to the frustrations outlined by Senator McHugh. The people involved in service provision in whatever area are the ones who know what is required to develop necessary infrastructure and large-scale projects. They know those requirements cannot be met over a short duration and that it is best to proceed through a planned process which allows them to tap into a system of multi-annual allocations.

In the case of St. Eunan's College, the key strategy going forward will involve the budget 2004 announcement of multi-annual allocations for capital investment in education projects. All projects not moving to construction stage as part of the 2004 school building programme, including St. Eunan's College, will be re-evaluated with a view to including them in the multi-annual building programme from 2005. The Department of Education and Science will make a further announcement on this matter during the year.

I hope my reply addresses some of the issues quite rightly and forcefully raised by Senator McHugh in relation to St. Eunan's College. I hope Senator McHugh has an opportunity to consider and digest our current status in the context of the need for multi-annual envelopes for projects of this nature. I will discuss the matter with my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey. If I receive any further information, I will let Senator McHugh know what progress is being made on projects which require multi-annual envelopes.

We have what are termed "deliverables" in the consultancy game. Hopefully, the term "brilliant" which was applied to the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, can be extended to and associated with the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Noel Dempsey.

The Seanad adjourned at 4.30 p.m. until2.30 p.m. on Tuesday, 9 March 2004.