I assure the Deputy that the overall net annual output of home economics teachers will not be affected by the decision to close the college in question and concentrate the future of home economics teacher training in St. Angela's College, Sligo.
The issue of the future of the college arose in the context of a decision by the trustees of the college that, due to personnel and financial considerations, they were no longer in a position to fulfil the role of trustees of the college. Following discussions between the trustees and my Department, it was agreed that a consultant would be appointed who would meet with relevant parties and prepare a report on the options for the college's future.
The consultant's report was thoroughly examined in my Department and the options for the future of the college were set out for my predecessor's consideration. Having carefully considered all of them and having taken into account other factors, such as the national spatial strategy, relevant costs in a time of financial constraint, a Government decision to restrict public service numbers, the need to secure value for money and a better allocation of resources, the former Minister, Deputy Noel Dempsey, decided that these considerations are best served by the closure of the college and the designation of St. Angela's College, Sligo, as the sole centre for the training of home economics teachers.
It was agreed that the closure of the college would be phased over three academic years to facilitate students currently enrolled in the college to fully complete their studies without moving location and to ensure that there was an adequate transition period for staff. On that basis there has been no intake of first year students to the college for the 2004-05 year. Instead, these students are now in St. Angela's College. Officials from my Department have already met the trustees and management authorities of the college to discuss the necessary practical arrangements, including arrangements regarding the position of the staff of the college. I have no plans to reconsider the decision to close the college.
With regard to the output of home economics teachers, I will ensure the position is kept under review to ensure there are no shortfalls of teachers, given the increasing importance of diet and related issues in schools as well as in society generally.