Adjournment Debate. - Foynes (Limerick) School.

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.

I would like to apologise on behalf of the Minister for Education and the Minister of State at that Department for their absence and thank the Deputy for raising the matter. It may be that because four different Ministers have attended on each occasion the Deputy raised this matter that the present Minister would not take the chance of coming here and sent me instead.

The Deputy will be aware that the Mercy Order in the diocese of Limerick announced, in 1991, its intention of withdrawing from the management of its post-primary school at Mount Trenchard, Foynes, in 1995. As the Stella Maris school is a voluntary secondary school, this decision was a matter solely for the Mercy Order. The Stella Maris school at Mount Trenchard, Foynes, is located in the west Limerick catchment area which is unique in that it has four post-primary schools located in four different centres. The three other schools are Scoil Mhuire secondary school, Askeaton, the Salesian College, Pallaskenry and the vocational school Shanagolden.

For many years the Department of Education has considered that some measure of rationalisation at post-primary level should be implemented in this catchment area and since the late 1960s the matter had been discussed periodically with the four managements involved in post-primary education in the catchment area.

The Deputy will be aware that a school action committee was formed in Foynes with the aim of keeping the Stella Maris school in operation after June 1995 under a new management, County Limerick Vocational Education Committee.

The Department carefully considered a submission made by the action committee and the question of whether the school could be continued in operation beyond 1995 had been under consideration. One option, that of leasing the school property from the Mercy Order, has been explored but found to be unacceptable to the sisters.

The Minister for Education and Department officials, met a deputation representing the action committee, on 1 April last.

The Minister listened carefully to the points put forward by the deputation in support of their case. However, she informed the deputation that the technical advice available to her suggested that the development costs in question were likely to entail a large financial liability which would be difficult to justify.

As the deputation disputed the scale and scope of the development costs involved, it was agreed that a meeting would be held between the Department's professional staff and the architect advising the action committee. At this meeting, which took place on 20 April, there was an exchange of information on likely development costs, with the Department's professional staff providing details of how its costings had been arrived at.

The meeting concluded on the basis that the architect advising the action committee would report back to the committee and would contact the Department again when more details in relation to mechanical and electrical costs, structural requirements and dry rot possibilities had been clarified. This response is awaited.

That is an appalling decision for the parents involved. Why will the Minister not say whether it is to close or not?

Does the Deputy want it closed?

It is disgraceful, the parents have to make a decision now about where to send their children.

The Deputy should ask the action committee for a response.

I am sick of the Minister's procrastinations. He is totally insensitive to the people involved.

The former Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, made a promise but did not deliver on it. The Minister of State and the Minister also made promises. The Ministers are totally insensitive to people. I am sick of these responses. I get the same response every time I raise this matter.

The Deputy is being disruptive.

I am not being disruptive.

The Deputy is being disruptive and if he does not cease I will have to ask him to leave the House. I am calling Deputy Doyle.

I got a load of waffle today and I am tired of it. I will willingly leave this House because I am tired of listening to waffle. The Ministers do not care about the pupils. They only care about their Mercedes, their portable telephones and so on.