Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Questions (49)

Pat the Cope Gallagher


49. Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of applications for new school buildings (details supplied); the timeframe for the projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26350/19]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Education)

The Minister will be familiar with the four Donegal schools to which the question refers. I ask him for an update on St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny, Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí, Little Angels special school, and Scoil Mhuire, Stranorlar.

I thank the Deputy for raising the issue of these schools, as he has done on a number of occasions previously. It keeps them on the radar, which does no harm at all. I will outline the position on the projects referred to by the Deputy. The major building project for St. Eunan's College, Letterkenny, is included on my Department's ADAPT programme. My Department is currently in the process of finalising the appointment of a project manager for this programme. The process to appoint a design team for this project has also recently commenced and is under way. The major building project for Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí is at stage 2a, developed design. At this stage the preferred option design is developed to a stage where the project is fully cost planned and can be prepared to lodge for statutory approvals. The major building project for Little Angels special school is at an advanced stage of architectural planning, stage 2b, detailed design. The stage 2b submission has been reviewed by my Department and comments have issued to the school and its design team. The design team is currently working on a submission to my Department outlining the steps required to achieve compliance with Part L of the Building Regulations (Amendment) Regulations 2017 on NZEB. The major building project for Scoil Mhuire, Stranorlar, is also at stage 2b. The pre-qualification process to select a shortlist of contractors for tender stage has been completed and the design team is currently completing work on its NZEB submission. When the design team's revised NZEB submission has been considered, my Department will be in contact with the board of management with regard to the further progression of the project as it then goes to tender.

The project for Scoil Mhuire, Stranorlar, has been going on for a long time. It was included in the capital plan in 2011 but was removed by the Minister's predecessor. It did not appear in any plan between 2011 and 2016. In 2016, it was included in the capital plan again. What worries me, as the Minister well knows, is that we had to get an extension of time for the planning permission already. If this goes on much longer and if we are not on site to carry out substantial works to get another extension, I am very worried about the result. I ask the Minister to take into consideration the fact that time is of the essence in Stranorlar. Whenever he passes the school, he sees the dangers faced by children posed by prefabs and flooding. It is a serious matter and one on which we must make progress.

I am pleased that St. Eunan's College in Letterkenny is in the ADAPT programme. I hope a project manager and design team will be appointed quickly to allow the project to go ahead. The Minister and I were there approximately two years ago in the company of the then Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton. Progress has been slow. I will mention some other schools when I ask my next supplementary questions.

I agree with what the Deputy has said about the timing of the Scoil Mhuire project. My ambition is ensure this goes to tender as soon as the NZEB requirements are satisfied. Parents will not be satisfied until they see diggers on site. It is important for us to keep the timing on the radar here. I acknowledge that the board of management at Scoil Mhuire in Stranorlar has had a long battle. The safety of the children has been at the heart of the board's concerns when it has been dealing with flooding issues and the school's proximity to the church car park. I know the Deputy will join me in wishing the outgoing principal of Scoil Mhuire, Fintan Keating, well on his retirement. He kept the shoulder to the wheel as well. The least we can do is ensure we get the timing right. The design team process at St. Eunan's College in Letterkenny has started. I agree that a project manager needs to be appointed as soon as possible.

Like the Minister, I hoped the project at Scoil Mhuire in Stranorlar would start before the retirement of Fintan Keating, who has put a tremendous amount of work into it. We must ensure his legacy is the commencement of this project by the end of this year or early next year. I am aware that the vitally important project at Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí is at the 2a design stage and is going for full costings. I am extremely anxious for the Minister, as a Deputy for the Donegal constituency, to do whatever has to be done to make progress with this project quickly. I think the project at Little Angels special school has been at its current stage for too long. I ask the Minister to use his good offices to expedite it and ensure the final stages are reached as quickly as possible so that tenders can be invited and machines can be brought onto the site.

I do not want to repeat myself. I agree with the Deputy that these projects are important. Tá Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí i mbaile Dhún na nGall iontach tábhachtach ar son na teanga. Tá an sár-obair dhíograiseach atá déanta ar son na scoile thar na blianta le feiceáil. Nuair a bhí mé ann roimh an Nollaig, bhí na páistí uilig ag labhairt Gaeilge agus bhí na tuismitheoirí uilig ag déanamh fíor-iarrachta fosta. Aontaím leis an Teachta go bhfuil an-tábhacht ag baint leis an scoil sin. Little Angels special school is a really important school for County Donegal. I hope progress can be made in respect of the NZEB submission. The progress in relation to that needs to continue. I have mentioned a principal who is retiring. I should also mention Chris Darby of St. Eunan's College. I know Deputy Gallagher will join me in wishing him well.