I welcome the Minister to his new portfolio. I look forward to as positive an answer to the question of the Old Borough national school in Swords, as was received by Deputy John Browne in respect of the matter he raised. This school was built in 1809 for the poor of the borough in Fingal. Since then very little has been done to the school by the State other than the provision in recent years of new toilets. At present, there are 80 pupils, mostly non-Catholics, attending this school, the only Protestant school serving the areas of Swords, Donabate and Ashbourne.
The accommodation consists of one large room in which three classes — first, second and third — are taught by one teacher. A portion of this large room has been fenced off, as it were, and there another two classes, junior and senior infants, are taught by another teacher. The remainder of the pupils — in fourth, fifth and sixth classes — are taught by the principal of this school is one prefab building in the back of the school. The prefab building was erected in September 1990 and at this stage the upstairs portion of the school building has been declared unsafe. In fact, it is my information that the whole building did not pass an electrical test carried out some time ago.
The prefab classroom is completely unsatisfactory, particularly on wet days. There are no facilities for the teachers, who must make their coffee in the corner of one of the classrooms. The cost of the prefab building to the Department and board of governors has been approximately £373 per month since September 1990. For that reason I contend that £4,000 has been unnecessarily expended by the Minister's Department while the school awaits its refurbishment. The board of governors are not anxious to spend any more money on this dilapidated building as they feel they would be merely throwing good money after bad. The playground facilities are located in the car park on a slope of approximately 30 to 35 degree angle, the school gate opening beside a set of traffic lights on a busy road.
Tender documents have been received in the Minister's Department. I urge the Minister not to wait until 1993 to invite tenders for this project. There is double urgency about the matter, and not only because of the unnecessary rental charges on the prefabricated building and unnecessary spending on the part of the board of governors. It is the only school in the area catering for non-Catholic primary school children. Indeed there is the risk of a claim of discrimination against these children, particularly since so many of the Catholic schools have been upgraded in recent years — a welcome development in itself. There can be very few schools nationwide built as far back as 1809 which have not been upgraded.