Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Ní bhfuair mé deis é seo a dhéanamh go poiblí ach déanaim comhghairdeas leis as ucht an pholasaí oideachais Gaeltachta agus as ucht an iarracht mhór a rinne sé ó thaobh na Gaeilge nuair a bhí an polasaí sin á sheoladh. I congratulate the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Richard Bruton, on the Gaeltacht education policy and the great effort he made to speak Irish on that occasion. It was very much appreciated and I thank him for it.
I am raising an immediate and a serious issue affecting a school in County Galway. I joined hundreds of children, parents and staff at Claddagh national school who were protesting against the cancellation of the bus service to the school last Friday. Further protests against cancelled city bus services could be on the cards if the Westside to Claddagh school service is not restored. Services from Westside to Claddagh, Scoil Einde to Seacreast and Claddagh to Westside via Salthill were all cancelled a number of weeks ago.
Claddagh national school principal, Mr. Michael Gallagher, has said that the aim of the march was to highlight the hardship of families and parents as a result of Bus Éireann's decision to cut the bus route that has existed for almost 30 years. Support for the restoration of the service is unanimous, both within the community and across the political spectrum. I joined with colleagues from across both Houses, including those in government who support this campaign, at the protest the other day. Locally elected representatives came out en masse to support the cause and it seems that everyone is in favour of restoring the bus route except Bus Éireann. The people are calling on us, as politicians, to intervene and to see what can be done to try to reverse this thoughtless and cruel decision. The school bus has been serving the school for almost 30 years and was cancelled without consultation or proper notification, just as winter began. Families with very young children are now walking several miles to school at the darkest, coldest and most dangerous time of the year. They feel it is deeply unfair. Members have been seeking a meeting with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, on this issue and a petition has been signed by more than 1,000 people.
I had a question put to the Minister but he said it was outside his area of responsibility, which I found quite strange.
I raise the issue today because this is going to have an impact on the children in the school. It is certainly having a very disruptive effect on the management and running of the school. I had a question put to the Minister to see if he or the Department of Education and Skills was consulted about the cut to this bus service, which is having an impact. As the Minister is aware, Galway schools are very full. There is little capacity and a lack of choice for parents who may want to try to move their children to a different school. That is not what is envisaged in this scenario. They would prefer the bus service to be there, but they would not have choice even if they wanted one. We have children and parents coming from an area where, in the main, they would not have their own transport. There is transport chaos in Galway anyway, so the more people we can have on the school buses the better to try to avoid that.
This is having an impact on the children who have to walk to school in the morning and walk home in the evening time. It also has an impact on parents, some of whom are working also. Was the Minister consulted and does he have concerns in this regard?