I have raised this matter with four successive Ministers for Education and have not received a satisfactory response. On 19 January 1991 the Sisters of Mercy announced their intention to withdraw from Mount Trenchard, Foynes in June 1991. They were not prepared to accept first year pupils from September of this year. On 16 February 1991 a public meeting was held and the parents, teachers and public representatives attended. A committee was formed and it has met on numerous occasions. It is now more than two years since that meeting and, despite representations to four different Ministers for Education, including the present Minister, a cloud of uncertainty still hangs over this matter.
I am appalled that in a constituency which at one stage had a Minister, Deputy Collins, and a Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, urging its retention we have failed to get a commitment to retain the school.
On 4 December 1992 the action committee, with Deputy Collins, met Deputy Séamus Brennan, the Minister at the time. They presented the case that the vocational school in Shanagolden and the Stella Maris secondary school in Foynes should amalgamate and should be administered by the vocational education committee. The Minister, Deputy Brennan, gave a commitment that the school could be purchased and that all the details would be sorted out. The committee returned home delighted. Indeed, in a recent edition of The Limerick Leader a member of the committee, who happens to be the Fianna Fáil Director of the organisation in west Limerick castigated the Minister, Deputy Brennan, for reneging on his commitment.
There is intense fury in the area over the indecision of the Department. The parents who are sending their children to secondary school for the first time have to seriously consider their options now that there is such a vacuum as a result of the Minister's indecision. The secondary school covers the Shanagolden, Kilcolman, Ballyhahill, Loughgill and Foynes areas. There are more than 80 pupils in their final year of primary school in those areas. In the other schools in this area, such as Tarbert comprehensive and Newcastle West secondary schools there is considerable overcrowding. The Minister is also aware of the overcrowding in Limerick city area which has been highlighted in recent times with more than 160 pupils who cannot gain admission to a school. In an area such a Foynes, which has been targeted for industrial expansion, it would be a retrograde step to allow this fine establishment to close.
I call on the Minister at this eleventh hour to make a decision. The time for decision-making has arrived. The cloud of uncertainty should be lifted. Surely the Minister can make a decision. I trust the Minister will inform me that the school will remain open.