The Minister of State can do his first job for the south east by approving the capital funding for this school. I campaigned on this issue for many years before I came into the Seanad. I have raised it on five separate occasions here and have tabled four Adjournment motions. I have done so because it is important to me. I have visited the school, Gaelscoil Philip Barún, Tramore, County Waterford, several times and far too many of its students are being taught in prefabs.
The school has applied for capital funding to build a new building to move the children out of prefabs. Since July the school has worked with its design team to clarify the final stage 2(b) report for architectural planning. All of the Department’s queries have been answered. Ms Noeleen Newman, the major design and construction person for the project, has assured it that the project is effectively at stage 2(b) and needs approval. Only four other schools in the country have completed all the architectural planning stages. This project needs to be included in a new building list as it is shovel ready and will benefit the students. It will create jobs in the area and remove prefabs which have been used for far too long.
The Department’s position is that the earliest it can go to tender is 2018. The school would like the Minister and the Department to bring that forward. Are there any plans to increase the number of schools being built? If that was the case, we would hope this school could be included. The Government is talking about stimulus and investment and if there is, as it says, an upturn in the economy, one would hope for an increase in capital funding across all Departments. If there is to be any increase in school building programmes, I will make sure to do my part to see that this school is included on that list.
The minor works grant has been withdrawn and the school’s maintenance budget has been cut by €10,000 with no prospect of a permanent building being provided in the short or medium term. I will continue to track this issue and to lobby on behalf of the people who use the school, the pupils and the parents. It is welcome that the application has come this far because the school is in a much better position than it was last year or two years ago. We want the building to be built and the funding to be provided as quickly as possible.