Adjournment Matters

Schools Building Projects

I thank the Minister of State for coming and congratulate him on his appointment. He will make an excellent Minister of State and it is great for someone so young to rise so quickly. He is a good man and I know he will do good work.

I am bringing this motion before the House in order to be helpful. I have often found the Department of Education and Skills to be lacking in terms of forward planning, although it is improving to some extent, and as such, I do not consider it has got this latest announcement quite right. The Minister announced the establishment of two new second level schools in County Meath, one in Navan and other in Ashbourne, to be established between 2012 and 2017. If the school in Johnstown, Navan is not established this year, we will have a major crisis. I thought we would have one last year when the school had not been established fully. It needs to be built by 2012 at the latest. We will need another secondary school in Navan by 2017. However, this will not do anying to solve the problems in the constitutency of Meath East that I used to represent in Dáil Éireann; it will merely solve the serious problems in Navan. I welcome the announcement of the establishment of a second level school in Ashbourne. There is already a secondary school located there, but it is operating at capacity, as are many schools in surrounding areas.

These are not the only areas in County Meath which have seen substantial increases in population. In my submission I mentioned Stamullen, Duleek, Laytown, Bettystown andMornington. Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington make up the second largest conurbation in County Meath in which a secondary school was recently established. The population of the St. Mary's electoral division of County Meath has increased from 9,044 to 10,772, an increase of 1,700 since the last census. It is situated near Drogheda, where it is proposed to provide a secondary school, but I do not know whether it will be able to cope with this increase. It will be interesting to see what percentage of that figure is made up by children because there are three children in my house and two children in my next door neighbour's, while the couple across the road also have two children. I suggest most of the increase in the population is accounted for by children which will lead to serious problems if we do not deal with the matter soon.

The Julianstown electoral division in County Meath which covers Laytown, Bettystown and Julianstown has seen its population increase from 8,289 to 9,588. I am interested in seeing the final figure and again suggest most of the increase is accounted for by children.

The population of the electoral division of Duleek in which there is no secondary school has risen to 5,177. If we add the population of the electoral division of Ardcath, 1,911, we see there has been another substantial increase in population. This is not the result of new houses being built or people moving in, as there has not been much development since 2006 in these towns. In fact, there are houses in Duleek which have been unoccupied since 2006. In addition, the population of the Stamullen electoral division which covers the town of Stamullen and the villages of Gormanston and Clonalvy has increased from 3,844 to 4,683. There will be a crisis in these towns, none of which is mentioned in the Minister's announcement on the establishment of new secondary schools.

The position on primary school accommodation is probably not as severe, but we are keeping a watching brief in the area. Children living in Stamullen could possibly travel to Balbriggan, but that would not be ideal. Children living in Duleek could possibly travel to Navan, but the problem there is at crisis point. Therefore, we need another secondary school in east County Meath to deal with the severe shortage of spaces.

I would like to make one final point. A school was announced for Kingscourt, County Cavan, on the border with County Meath. It is a very good town and this is a worthy project, but there is a fantastic secondary school in Nobber, only five miles away. In what is a lightly populated area I cannot see why there is a need for two secondary schools. Therefore, I call on the Minister to review the position. My party Whip and colleague in County Cavan will not be too happy when I say this, but I need to speak what I believe to be the truth.

I thank the Senator for his gracious and kind comments which are greatly appreciated. He might drop me a note on the issues he has raised because we should engage on what is a genuine undertaking on his part.

I am taking this Adjournment matter on behalf of the Minister for Education and Skills.

I thank the Senator for raising the matter as it affords me the opportunity to outline to the Seanad the current position regarding the provision of new post-primary schools to cater for demographic increases. The Department's most recent statistics indicate that the number of pupils at second level is projected to increase by 24,900 from the current level of circa 317,400 pupils to 342,300 by 2017. The projections indicate that pupil numbers will continue to rise until 2024, when it is expected there will be in the region of 383,000 pupils in the second-level system. That represents an increase of 65,700 pupils over the current levels.

The Department is utilising a geographical information system, GIS, to identify the areas in which there will be a requirement for significant additional school provision at both primary and post-primary levels over the coming years. This detailed analysis is now being finalised and action plans are being drawn up for each priority location in order to determine how to meet the additional school accommodation requirements for each area for the next four to five years.

It is within this context that the Minister recently announced that up to 40 new schools are to be established within the next six years, comprising 20 new primary and 20 new post-primary schools. Of the 40 new schools, 17 will be in the Dublin area, with a further 12 in the commuter belt of Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Louth. Six new schools will be established in Cork, three in Galway and one each in Wexford and Cavan. Included in this announcement are new post-primary schools for Navan, Drogheda and Ashbourne, which will greatly enhance second-level provision in the wider area referred to by the Deputy. In addition, the Department recognised a new post-primary school for east Meath, located in Laytown, in 2008-09. The school is currently located in temporary accommodation beside the site on which the permanent new school is under construction. The new permanent school building, which will provide accommodation for 1,000 pupils, is expected to be ready in July 2012. This school caters for children from the east Meath areas of Laytown, Bettystown, Stamullen and Julianstown. I thank the Senator again for raising this matter.

I thank the Minister of State. I did not expect an answer that was much different from that. I acknowledge the Department's work in the area and the provision of Coláiste na hInse, which was mentioned. However, the reason I raised this issue is that I do not feel the Department has got it fully right. I ask that it reconsider in particular whether there is adequate second level provision in the Slane and east Meath electoral area, including the towns of Duleek, Stamullen, Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington and the south edge of Drogheda, which is in County Meath.

Job Creation

I welcome the Minister of State. To give some background to tabling of this subject for discussion, in 2007 the former Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment had a discussion about unemployment black spots, and a former Member of the Lower House, Arthur Morgan, asked that a cross-party delegation of that committee travel to such areas. The areas chosen included west Waterford and east Cork, and the group visited the town of Dungarvan. The visit was made on 21 and 22 January 2008 and the group then published a report, which made a number of recommendations, including the provision of enterprise supports, incubation units to be supported by the IDA, and broadband infrastructure. One of the key points made in the report was about the need for a university in the south east and the requirement for Waterford IT to be elevated to university status to allow the region the opportunity to compete with other regions and countries. One of the critical aspects of this was the requirement for a greater emphasis on research and development and for Waterford IT to be in the top tier of research and development universities.

Dungarvan town has seen many job losses over the last number of years, including at Waterford Foods, Pfizer, the leather factory and Waterford Crystal. Today an announcement was made by GlaxoSmithKline in Dungarvan, a key plant in the town, that 130 jobs are to go. The number of jobs being lost is really 145 because 15 positions will be lost by what they call natural wastage. These jobs are of fundamental importance to the town of Dungarvan, as is the factory itself, socially and economically. We can add to this the cost of all of the other jobs that have been lost. I express my sympathies to the families who will be the victims. It is awful whenever a person loses his or her job.

What are the Minister's intentions on foot of the recommendations made by the all-party Oireachtas committee that the State and the Government should take action and give support to towns such as Dungarvan to prevent job losses and encourage enterprise development? We must make sure that those in towns such as Dungarvan or Youghal in Cork have the same opportunities as those in the bigger cities and are not left behind. When the all-party group travelled to Dungarvan in 2008, there were 170,000 people in this State out of work; there are now 460,000. In Dungarvan town alone there are 2,497 people currently out of work. If we add 130 more to this figure we can see how devastating this is for the town.

What action has been taken up to now on foot of the recommendations made in the report? What action does the Department intend to take to deliver on the recommendations? What action will the Government take to deal with the job losses at GlaxoSmithKline? Given that there are still 600 people working in the plant, we must ensure those jobs are protected. I ask the Minister to respond to the bad news that came from Waterford today about the 130 job losses.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter. As the Senator has raised the issue of the job losses at GlaxoSmithKline, it is important for us to join with him in acknowledging the addition to the numbers unemployed in Dungarvan. I acknowledge what the Senator is saying in that regard and I join with him, although I do not want to give just platitudes, in extending our sympathy to those families. I have listened to his comments about the recommendations of the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment. I must note for the record that the Senator's Oireachtas colleague Deputy Ciara Conway also contacted me today about the GlaxoSmithKline announcement. I was told that while the headcount reduction is regrettable — there is no question about that — the company's aim is to remain focused on the long-term future of the site, ensuring that it remains competitive. Although the site remains strategic within the company's network, the company must continue to control its cost base and be more flexible because of global trends. That is the line coming from the company on this.

It is easy for us as Ministers to stand here and say this is down to a global phenomenon, but a foreign direct investment company is particularly subject to retrenchment in terms of its cost base, especially if it is competing against other aspects of its own structure, and it is appropriate for it to reduce its costs. The unfortunate thing about that is the resulting job losses. If it does have a programme of retrenchment, the important thing is that the company makes itself sustainable so it can preserve the remaining jobs. We must try our best to work with the State agencies in that regard.

I have noted the report referred to by the Senator, which was produced in 2008, a time when the country as a whole was facing immense challenges. We all know that job creation is central to our economic recovery and it will be clear from the programme for Government that job creation is at the core of the Government's policies. The role of my Department is to ensure we have the right policies in place to support and enlarge our enterprise base in order to facilitate job creation and job retention.

The jobs initiative announced on 10 May focuses our limited resources on measures that offer the greatest potential for expansion and employment creation. The initiative represents a positive intervention to support those entrepreneurs and business people who will create jobs and rebuild our economy. The key elements were the retention of the 12.5% corporation tax and the introduction of a new, temporary, second reduced rate of VAT to apply primarily to restaurants and catering services, hotel and holiday accommodation and various entertainment services. I hope these reductions were adhered to in Waterford especially in recent weeks with the visit of the tall ships and I hope that the hospitality sector there has done well out of it. Our hope is that this will continue. Other elements include the halving of the lower rate of employers PRSI on earnings of up to €356 per week; the focus of the State's capital expenditure towards more employment-intensive projects in the areas of education, local and regional roads and sustainable transport projects; and the provision of an extra 20,900 activation places for the unemployed. The jobs initiative is an important first step in this regard.

One announcement for the south-east region this year will create 50 new jobs in Waterford. Also, jobs announced for the region in recent years continue to come on-stream. As well as marketing the region for new green-field investment, IDA Ireland continues to work with existing clients to broaden their mandate in Ireland and also with existing clients to re-invest in sites in the region. While we are operating in difficult economic times, there are still investment opportunities in global markets. There are 31 IDA Ireland-supported companies in Waterford city and county employing approximately 5,300 people. Clear evidence of a transition towards more knowledge-based and higher value activity is apparent in the resilience of companies such as Bausch & Lomb, Honeywell, Citi Hedge Funds, Genzyme and Sun Life Financial.

I will be visiting Waterford Institute of Technology, WIT, because I have heard about the great work under way there in the life sciences, information and communications technology, international services and high technology engineering areas. WIT is one place earmarked for a visit by me as the Minister of State with responsibility for research and innovation. It is important to spin out as many companies as we can, locally if possible, from such institutes as WIT.

I refer to the last point made by the Minister of State. This is precisely why we need a university for the region. Some people maintain that if a university were in place, there may be greater research and development opportunities and we might not have seen the job losses announced at GlaxoSmithKline. The Minister of State is correct to suggest this is about reducing costs in the company. The company wishes to reduce costs by €10 million. The costs of these job losses will be €3.3 million. However, the money being borrowed from the IMF and put into the banks, the cost of the bailout to the State and the profit which our European partners will make will be in the region of €9 billion. Yet, such companies are struggling and need support.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I welcome that the Minister of State will visit Waterford Institute of Technology but I hope the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation will consider the town of Dungarvan. I do not share the Minister of State's view that IDA Ireland is doing its best for the town. There have been no major investments in the town in recent years. There have been major job losses but no new opportunities. I hope the Minister of State will take this on board.

The Seanad adjourned at 7.15 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 8 July 2011.