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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 9 Feb 2022

Vol. 282 No. 10

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Departmental Strategies

The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, is very welcome to the Seanad. I am looking for an update on the work and actions of the transport working group under the national disability inclusion strategy. How is the group working? How is the Minister of State bringing together all the relevant Departments and stakeholders in order to make real changes, including making disability proofing of transport policy the default rather than the afterthought?

I congratulate the Minister of State on her absolute and complete bias towards equitable policies and the way in which she has fought for people with disabilities. I am determined, as is the Minister of State, to do everything possible to address those challenges and to break down all barriers to independent living and equal participation in society. The Minister of State is aware of the inequitable access to transport for thousands of people with disabilities across the country and she knows the detrimental effect that has on those individuals. It means a lack of independence, isolation and an inability to take part in community activities. The lack of transport has an affect on those people's educational and employment opportunities, and their ability to go out and socialise with their friends and families. It makes me furious to think that because I am able-bodied, I automatically have a easier path through life. That makes me upset. The Minister of State and I have spoken about how hard it is and how upset it makes us that people are barred from doing the normal things we take for granted. Fianna Fáil has always worked to create a fairer and more equal society. I look forward to hearing the Minister of State's update. The working group has the tired and exhausted hopes of thousands of individuals, families and communities resting in its work.

I was happy that on 26 January, the Minister of State attended the working group session to examine the accessibility of transport for people with disabilities, including the priority review of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. As she has highlighted, there are significant and immediate issues with the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme. There needs to be a focus on those issues and they need to be remedied with haste. The lack of a proper scheme, as the Minister of State knows, is causing unnecessary hurt, physical, mental and financial pain to many families. The Minister of State has also highlighted the problems with the primary medical certificate, as have many Members of this House and the Lower House. An applicant must be permanently or severely disabled to satisfy at least one of the six medical criteria in order to obtain a primary medical certificate. The mobility allowance and motorised transport grant also need to be reformed.

Allowing people full participation in society is an important aspect of our transport policy. I would like to know what steps are proposed towards the disability proofing of all transport projects. That can include buses, trains, footpaths and bus stops. How will the working group take a role in the review of how we apply joined-up thinking? We must make all Departments look at what is best and how we can allow our friends and families who happen to have a disability to become equitable members of our society.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I know it is an issue she is continuously working on and trying to progress so it is great to have the opportunity to provide the House with an update. The transport working group was established in 2020 to support work action No. 104 of the national disability inclusion strategy, NDIS, the whole-of-government strategy which is tasked with tackling a wide variety of issues across society. Action No. 104 of the NDIS commits us to lead a review of transport supports encompassing all Government funded transport and mobility schemes for people with disabilities and to enhance the options for transport to work or employment supports for people with disabilities. We will develop proposals for development of a co-ordinated plan for such provisions. This plan will have regard to making the most efficient use of available transport resources.

The transport working group's work was paused to prioritise initial responses to the pandemic, while the work of the main NDIS steering group continued. I made a commitment to reconvene the working group and it met on 26 January. I chaired that meeting.

Following engagement last summer between the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and the Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Deputy O'Gorman, it was decided to use the existing transport working group to progress a review of the disabled drivers and disabled passengers scheme.

That scheme is designed by the Department of Finance and the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, has already committed to reviewing that scheme. The group's membership is made up of relevant Departments and State agencies which have a role in the provision of transport for people with disabilities with a particular focus on transport to enable access to employment. Members include officials from both of my Departments, namely, the Department of Health and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, along with the National Disability Authority, the Department of Finance, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Transport with the National Transport Authority. The County and City Management Association is also represented. To put it in context, I have left nobody out. I brought everybody back into the fold because it has to be a whole-of-government, cross-departmental working group to ensure we get delivery for persons with a disability. It is not just a rural or an urban issue. It is about accessibility, inclusion and participation. While I reference work there, I also reference education. In her contribution Senator McGreehan talked about the social outlet. That is equally as important as access to work or education. Everybody has a right to participate.

I am pleased to say that there is involvement from all stakeholders on the group, and representatives from the disability stakeholder group, the Irish Wheelchair Association and the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland were also in attendance. As the House knows, consultation with stakeholders is a key element of the implementation of the UNCRPD and I look forward to hearing its views and input as the work of the group develops and continues. This group will meet every three months. It is not that it meets and is a talking shop. It is based on actions. Everybody knows his or her own actions within it.

At January's meeting, Department representatives presented on the transport support schemes they are responsible for and we heard views and concerns from the stakeholders. Members have agreed an initial work programme to include a stock take of the current and, indeed, previous transport support schemes in operation. I have also asked it to consider what worked well in the past, what currently works well, ruling nothing in and putting everything on the table. It is clear that a variety of measures and supports exists across government but we must make sure action is co-ordinated across the system and addresses the real needs of people with disabilities. The ongoing work of the group will be co-ordinated by my officials who will also draft terms of reference for discussion at the next meeting.

It is refreshing to see and hear about the work that is going on and the positive actions being taken. It is also refreshing to hear that it is a case of nothing about us without us, and that the people at the table know what they are talking about as it is their lived experience and they know the barriers because they face them day in, day out.

Another issue is the report from the Department of Social Protection, which has come up. I refer to a review of the free travel scheme. There is a barrier in terms of how different disabilities are classed. It is means- and disability-tested. For example, a person who has epilepsy should have a pathway to access to free travel. We need a more flexible pathway to free travel to assist people to live independently and to have free access to education and work which are really important things.

The wonderful thing about this working group is it will be an opportunity, as I said, to consider what worked well in the past and what resources were removed from people with disabilities which gave them independent access to participation. We all know from people coming to our offices how limited the primary medical certification is, and I think the courts have told us as well. I must compliment and thank the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, for his willingness to participate and to send his officials to the conversation. This means we are prepared to have that conversation. Technology has moved on in regard to adaptations within the car but if you are blind, you still cannot drive. People who are blind are completely excluded from the assessment criteria. It is about understanding what inclusion is and what people's rights are, and enshrining that within the whole-of-government, cross-departmental approach. I am delighted all the senior Ministers have allowed their officials to participate in this. No Department should be missing.

Pension Provisions

I thank the Cathaoirleach's office for selecting this Commencement matter. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, particularly as I am raising a west of Ireland issue, the Saolta Hospital Group, although it may be something that is relevant to other hospital groups as well. I am not sure about that.

We all appreciate and accept the sacrifices that front-line healthcare workers made over the past two years during the Covid-19 period and, indeed, before that in a very challenging health service environment. We know front-line healthcare workers have put their safety and health on the line, stayed apart from vulnerable loved-ones and held the hands of patients who passed away from all kinds of illnesses, including Covid-19.

These healthcare professionals worked long shifts in double PPE, not knowing what the future held for themselves, their families or their patients. Many of them suffered burn-out because having spent months and years in high-stress environments, they could take no more. Some have reached retirement age while some have opted to take early retirement because they can give no more. They were rightly hailed as heroes and nobody disagreed with their receiving a €1,000 bonus as a gesture of thanks and recognition by Government. However, when these heroes inquire about their pension entitlements after years of service, they are not treated like heroes, or at least not in the west. They face months, if not up to a year's, delay in getting a response as to what level of pension they are entitled to, and many retire without knowing exactly what their pension will be and when they will receive it.

I think the Minister of State will accept it is not unreasonable to expect that on retirement, you will receive your hard-earned pension but many healthcare workers in the west have to wait months for payment. I know of one case where a nurse, aged over 60, seeking early retirement because of burn-out and serious back problems, inquired of Saolta in March 2021 as to what her pension entitlement would be if she retired in early 2022. She followed up by phone in the summer of 2021 to be told that it could be early 2022 when she would be informed of her pension entitlement. Here we are in 2022 and she still has received no answer. She must now make the decision without knowing what she is entitled to. She has also been told by colleagues who have retired that she should set aside money because she will not be paid for months, when she retires. One colleague retired from Saolta in October 2020 but was not paid until the following March.

This is no way to treat healthcare staff who have given their working lives in service of their community. There can be no excuses. I ask the Minister of State to ensure the Department follows up and insists the Saolta Hospital Group puts in place the resources to make sure that retiring healthcare staff are treated properly and can retire with dignity and peace of mind.

I thank Senator Kyne for raising that question. As a former financier, the basic thing anybody wants to know about his or her pension is what his or her entitlement is and how to make provisions into the future. That is the essence of pensions. I have a script that I will read. It has been forwarded by the HSE in the west, from Saolta, but I do not accept the answer. It is not good enough, but I will give it to the Senator because people have come to him as they have to me. The answer is not acceptable. Using the pandemic and the cyberattack as a reason for not being able to tell a person his or her basic entitlements is not acceptable in this day and age. We all know that what you put it in, you get out, and it is accrued on an annual basis. Whether you have done 15 years or 30 years, you should know what your accruals are. I will read this script because the Senator will get a flavour of why I feel strongly about this.

I want to take the opportunity to thank the Senator for raising the issue. As I am sure he is aware, the HSE administers a pension service for its employees as well as for other health employers, such as certain hospitals. The HSE pensions administration function, like other support and administration functions, faced significant challenges over the past two years during Covid-19. Due to the pandemic, the HSE had to move its pension function to remote working at short notice. This involved significant challenges which included providing remote access to a variety of computer systems.

As the Senator is no doubt aware, pension processing is a complex operation that involves calculation of pension benefits which includes estimates, retirement benefits, temporary rehabilitation remuneration and injury grants to name but a few. In addition to the technical challenges at the outset of the pandemic, a significant number of pension staff was redeployed to support the emergency efforts, Covid-19 recruitment and contact tracing.

This necessary temporary redeployment also has an impact on the delivery of pension services.

This situation was then compounded in May 2021 by the devastating impact of the cyberattack on the HSE. While it may now be a distant memory, the pension service is still dealing with the impact of the attack. The fact that access to all computerised systems ceased overnight had a massive impact on the HSE pension administration function. While access to most systems has now been restored, there are significant backlogs which the pension services must now work through.

The HSE recognises the challenges in the administration of the pensions and, as such, has implement a service improvement programme across the country. In order to address any current delays, the HSE suggests that any individuals who are experiencing difficulties in relation to their retirement benefit should make direct contact with their local pension office. The HSE remains committed to providing an inefficient and effective pension administration service to its employees.

The Senator will understand why, at the start of my response, I stood away from the answer provided. The lady in question has been trying to access this service for 12 months. At the end of the day, she has done X number of years service, and regardless of whether we had a cyberattack in 2021, at a certain point in time she will have known what her accruals were by that date and time.

I thank the Minister of State for her official reply and also her frankness on this issue. It is not good enough and I think she will accept that. She has admitted it is not good enough. Why is it happening in the HSE? Is it not happening in any other organisation? Is it happening in the Department of Education, for example? I have not heard that it is.

Yes, there was a cyberattack. However, the information has not been wiped out, I presume. It has not disappeared. It is there and it needs to be processed. Yes, pensions are complex, and I appreciate that. However, people have worked long years of service in difficult conditions and they are entitled to their pension. It is likely that it is an issue not only in the west but nationwide and it needs to be sorted.

I am sure this issue is raised at management board meetings within the Department. I urge the Minister of State to continue to insist that resources are provided to all hospital groups to ensure people are paid their pensions quickly and efficiently and they get the information they are entitled to regarding their entitlement.

I will raise this particular issue with the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, to ensure the Department gets involved at this stage. Workers have a right to access this. The Department knows that the ICT systems in the HSE are back up and running, not just across the Saolta group but in all the various groups. I will also ask that this matter be included on the agenda for the next board meeting in the Department in order that Mr. Robert Watt can ensure there is a clear line for people who are retiring to know what their entitlements are in 2022.

I am sure Mr. Watt knows what his pension entitlements are.

I have no doubt.

Energy Policy

The issue I raise is the lack of an energy poverty strategy given that the previous one lapsed in 2019. We also still do not have a review of the previous strategy's implementation, as promised to us last year, to determine whether it actually did anything. We do not have the review of the implementation and we do not have a new energy poverty strategy.

I am calling on the Government, yet again, to expedite the strategy as a matter of urgency. I ask the Minister of State for an update on it. I welcome the renewed call by the older persons' charity, Age Action, for a Government energy poverty strategy. A new strategy should have preceded the retrofit plan announced yesterday, or they at least should have gone hand in hand to ensure the retrofit plan was informed by the energy poverty strategy. Likewise, we were promised Central Statistics Office, CSO, indicators to ensure retrofitting was actually reducing energy poverty as well as increasing energy efficiency. However, we have yet to see the CSO indicators for that either. This was on the back of a Department of Public Expenditure and Reform report in 2020 which found insufficient data has been collected on demographics to conduct a social impact assessment on its energy poverty schemes, which include retrofitting. While we know that energy efficiency upgrades are a key part of the strategy to tackle energy poverty, the retrofit plan announced yesterday still seems to fall short of making the upgrades attainable for those on low incomes. It is absolutely critical that we get those CSO indicators so that the retrofit plan and the energy poverty strategy are targeted at those who most need it.

Retrofits are important for bringing down our emissions but they also have to reduce energy poverty. As announced yesterday, the deeper retrofit will still cost €25,000 on top the grant. That is not attainable for many families. Those who are already at the pin of their collar will not consider getting a loan. The cruelty is that they may never be eligible for a retrofit scheme but they will always be liable for the carbon tax. Under the measures announced yesterday, those who are wealthy will be able to benefit from taxpayers' money by getting massive grants. Effectively, we are transferring a huge amount of wealth to those we do not need it.

I am sure that onlookers had high hopes because we were promised a socially progressive retrofit programme, but what we heard yesterday did not meet that bar. If it not based on evidence through CSO indicators and a review of the implementation of the energy poverty strategy, the programme will not achieve its aims.

As regards short-term solutions, I would like to hear the Minister of State address energy poverty. My colleague in the Dáil, Deputy Claire Kerrane, put forward a proposal for a discretionary fund a year ago. At the time, the Tánaiste said the would take this proposal on board and look at it, yet it has not happened. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been calling for this for a long time.

I also raise the issue of reforming the public service obligation, PSO, a regressive tax that subsidises renewable energies. The PSO does not take ability to pay into account. The way it is currently designed means that households are subsidising large energy users, such as data centres and pharmaceutical companies, because it based on a peak demand rather than a steady demand. We know that data centres have a steady demand and, as such, once again, it is households that are subsidising the big energy users.

I ask the Minister of State to provide an update on the energy poverty strategy, the CSO indicators and the report of the review of the implementation of the energy poverty strategy that lapsed in 2019.

I thank Senator Boylan for raising this important issue and for the timely opportunity to give an update on Government action to alleviate energy poverty.

The national retrofit plan, which was published as part of Climate Action Plan 2021, sets out how the Government will deliver on our retrofit targets and includes a range of matters aimed at supporting those least able to afford to retrofit. A key measure in that regard is a commitment to complete a review of the implementation of the strategy to combat energy poverty in the first quarter of 2022, which is March of this year. Good progress has been made in that regard and the review findings will inform the next steps in the development of a new strategy.

Energy poverty is influenced by a person's income, the energy efficiency of the home and the cost of the energy they use. Government policy, therefore, focuses on supplementing lower income households through the fuel allowance and other payments, as well as providing free energy efficiency upgrades through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, schemes and also through the social housing retrofit programme, for which the budget provided €85 million this year.

The effects of recent energy price increases have undoubtedly been felt across society, especially by those at risk of energy poverty. That is why the Government has acted to support householders through the introduction of an energy measure, which will provide a €100 credit to all domestic electricity accounts, as well new, specially enhanced grants for home insulation, which I will mention later.

Since the publication of the strategy to combat energy poverty, measures to support those at risk of energy poverty have continued to be improved and expanded. Funding for the SEAI energy poverty retrofit schemes has increased dramatically over the period, from €15 million in 2015 to €118 million for 2022. The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage will invest a further €85 million as part of the social housing retrofit programme this year. In addition, the fuel allowance was increased from €20 per week in 2014 and 2015 to €33 per week for 2021 and 2022.

That is €924 per year. The Minister for Social Protection has also extended the eligibility criteria for the payment.

The Housing for All strategy has committed to introducing additional rent controls that will result in rental properties having a required minimum building energy rating. Protections remain in place for customers falling into arrears on their energy bills. These measures and improvements have had an impact, with the share of households at risk of experiencing energy poverty falling from 28% in 2016 to 17.5% in 2020 and the proportion of people who report that they are unable to afford to keep the home adequately warm falling from 9% in 2015 to 3.4% in 2020. These are positive indications but we still need to improve how we measure and monitor the number of households that could be at risk. A research network on fuel poverty chaired by the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, has been established to examine the data and metrics needed to improve existing measures for fuel poverty in Ireland. The group consists of representatives from the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the Department of Social Protection, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland and the Central Statistics Office, CSO.

Yesterday, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications also announced further improvements to the supports available to homeowners to retrofit their homes, in line with the commitments in the national retrofit plan. A budget allocation of €109 million has been provided for the warmer homes scheme this year. This will support an increase in the number of free home upgrades, from an average of 177 per month last year to 400 per month this year, helping to reduce waiting times. Separately, grants for cavity wall and attic insulation will more than triple as part of the Government's response to the current exceptionally high energy prices. For instance, in the case of a semi-detached home, the attic insulation grant will increase from €400 to €1,300 and the cavity wall insulation grant will increase from €400 to €1,200. These are highly cost-effective upgrade measures that can be deployed rapidly and at scale this year. It is expected that these works will pay back in less than two years in most houses.

The new grant rates will cover approximately 80% of the typical cost of these measures and will be available to all homeowners. The details I have outlined demonstrate the Government's significant commitments to supporting those at risk of energy poverty.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. I welcome that the review of the implementation report will be due in the first quarter of 2022. However, the last time we had this conversation the Minister of State promised it would be produced in 2021. I will have to submit another Commencement matter in March if it is not published by then.

The Minister of State said that the ESRI had been tasked with looking at data and metrics. Is that in addition to the CSO indicators that we were promised by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, or in place of them? The ESRI supports our call for changes to the way the PSO levy is calculated. It has pointed out that it is a case of households subsidising large energy users. The new plan in the climate action plan is to move to 80% renewables by 2030. If we are subsidising renewable energy, the PSO levy is going to increase. That levy is regressive and does not take into account ability to pay. Altering the way the PSO levy is calculated will not only benefit households but will also benefit small businesses.

I believe the ESRI statistics are in addition to the CSO ones but I will get confirmation for the Senator on that. She has asked interesting questions about the calculation of the PSO levy, measuring the difference between those who have steady use and those who have peak use, and whether it is fair for commercial and residential customers. I cannot give the Senator a good answer orally so I will provide her with a written answer on that. She is always welcome to contact my office. However, I take her points.

We estimate that half of the homes in the country have poor attic insulation. Everybody who wants to apply for these grants can get that upgrade for less than €500. That is something that will pay back within two years, with 80% of the cost covered by the State. That is available to everybody, no matter their income. It is a very rapid step and a response to what is happening with energy prices now.

Schools Administration

The Minister of State is welcome to the Chamber. I would like the Minister for Education to make a statement on plans to build a second post-primary school in Kinsale, which is a wonderful part of the world. History and geography have been very good to Kinsale over millions of years. It is a growing, thriving town. Its population has grown enormously over the last few years. In the 2016 census, the population of Kinsale had risen to 5,281. The county development plan states that by 2028 it is expected that the population of Kinsale will be 7,342. That is a significant growth. That growth is clear in all the current developments in Kinsale.

Not only is Kinsale thriving and building but the rural villages around it are also developing. Kinsale is our shopping, entertainment and also educational destination. When it comes to post-primary choice in our part of the world, we all feed into Kinsale. Pupils from schools in Dunderrow, Ballinadee, Ballinspittle, Belgooly, Minane Bridge, Nohoval, Kilbrittain and Ballyheedy go to Kinsale for post-primary school and there are another four primary schools in the town. It is amazing that there are 12 primary schools feeding into this post-primary destination of Kinsale. The town currently has only one post-primary school, which is a unique complex. There has been savage growth in the school over the last few years. While it is a high-class school, it is also the only one. Other towns have a similar population but more schools. Bandon is slightly bigger but has four post-primary schools. Carrigaline is significantly bigger and also has four post-primary schools. There is very much a need for choice. We need to plan ahead and take into consideration the projected growth in the county development plan and the growth in the villages around Kinsale. We need to strategically plan for educational infrastructure for Kinsale.

As I said, there have been major increases in Kinsale's post-primary capacity in the past few years. We now need to plan ahead for a second post-primary school for Kinsale. That is the key. We need plans so there is another destination that will complement the one we have. That is realistically what the town of Kinsale needs. It is very unusual to have such a population increase and not have a strategic plan in place for educational needs. It shows a lack of joined-up thinking in so many ways. The Department of Education must come up with a long-term vision for the town that incorporates the entire hinterland as well. That is the key issue here.

I hope we can start a debate this morning on a second post-primary school for Kinsale. We are going through a county development plan process and we can look at proposals to get land zoned. Even without the county development plan process, it would be appropriate to look at that school complex in a strategic and holistic way. We can start this debate and hopefully move forward and get plans in place for Kinsale so it can move forward in the future.

I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I can hear in his voice his passion for education in Kinsale. In order to plan for school provision and analyse the relevant demographic data, the Department divides the country into 314 school planning areas and uses a geographical information system, using data from a range of sources, including child benefit and school enrolment data, to identify where the pressure for school places across the country will arise and where additional school accommodation is needed at primary and post-primary level.

Major new residential developments in a school planning area have the potential to alter demand in that area. In that regard, as part of the demographic exercises, the Department engages with each of the local authorities to obtain up-to-date information on significant new residential developments in each area. This is necessary to ensure that school infrastructure planning is keeping pace with demographic changes. Project Ireland 2040 population and housing targets also inform the Department's projections of school place requirements. Where demographic data indicate that additional provision is required, the delivery of such additional provision is dependent on the particular circumstances of each case and may be provided by utilising existing unused capacity within a school or schools, extending the capacity of a school or schools, or the provision of a new school or schools.

There is one post-primary school, Kinsale Community School, in the Kinsale school planning area. This is a co-educational school catering for boys and girls and serves the post-primary demand in the Kinsale school planning area. The school has a current enrolment of 1,326 pupils for the 2021-22 school year. Current demographic data indicate that the peak enrolment year in the Kinsale school planning area is projected to be in 2024, when it will have 1,393 pupils.

Subsequently, enrolments are projected to decrease to 1,225 by 2028.

With regard to meeting the current and future accommodation needs of Kinsale Community School, the Department has approved a significant level of additional accommodation for the school. In March 2021, approval was given for the provision of 12 mainstream classrooms in modular accommodation, procured through the Department's framework, to meet the school's immediate enrolment need. More recently, further accommodation was approved consisting of ten mainstream classrooms, two science laboratories, five specialist rooms, a library, a meeting room, a general purpose room, a five-classroom special educational needs base and various ancillary accommodation, including storage and preparation areas.

Both projects have been devolved to the Association of Community and Comprehensive Schools for delivery. It is intended that the school will have capacity to cater for a minimum of 1,350 pupils when the totality of the additional accommodation is provided on the school site. This will then meet the projected post-primary school demand in the Kinsale school planning area for the foreseeable future. The Department, therefore, has no plans to provide a further post-primary school in Kinsale. The requirement, however, for additional school places is kept under ongoing review. Additionally, the Department will continue to liaise with the local authority in respect of its review of the county development plan, with a view to ensuring that any potential long-term school accommodation requirements are anticipated.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. It is about the county development plan process and tying everything together. We probably need to talk about a complex that will have the capability for transportation links to be built in. We need to strategically plan ahead on a ten-year basis. I am not alone looking at the development of Kinsale but the villages around it, which are all very scenic. There is extensive development at present. The housing developments in Kinsale, when the census is published in eight months' time, will show a very significant change in population figures. I question whether the data on reaching peak enrolment are correct because I do not see a peak at present. I see a growth in population, not alone in Kinsale, but in the entire district.

We need to plan for how the schools will interact with society. We need to talk about school transportation links and cycleways. If we do not engage with the county development plan now, we will probably be seven years behind the curve again. That would be very unfortunate.

I take the Senator's point about the need for choice in order that it is not just about having one school, in addition to making sure that we have growth, not just for Kinsale town but the surrounding villages, and that the estimates for that growth are correct.

The Senator will know that we have a big programme for sustainable transportation links to nearby communities so people do not have to drive their children to school. I want to be sure that his area and county are getting their fair share of that. There is €360 million available and Cork should be getting a significant amount of that. We are getting our share in my area of Dún Laoghaire so the Senator should make sure that his local authority is applying for that money.

From speaking to the Minister, the Department will continue to keep the school accommodation requirements in Kinsale under review. She said that she will be informed by demographic analysis and engagement with the local authority, but it is currently anticipated that the significant capital investment in Kinsale Community School will provide sufficient post-primary capacity in the area and facilitate the school in continuing to provide a high standard of education for the students of Kinsale.

Cuireadh an Seanad ar fionraí ag 11.13 a.m. agus cuireadh tús leis arís ag 11.34 a.m.
Sitting suspended at 11.13 a.m. and resumed at 11.34 a.m.