I thank the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise the issue. The need to build a new primary school for St. Colmcille's in Knocklyon has been on the political agenda for at least 15 years. This is the largest primary school in the country; approximately 1,500 students attend it. For far too long a large portion of the classrooms have been prefabricated buildings, many of which have long passed their use-by date.
The school has gone through the various stages to facilitate construction and got to a point in October this year where the final documentation was furnished to the Department of Education and Skills. It is my understanding that it was indicated to the school board and the principals of the school that by 15 November, the final consideration would be given to the final document received relating to the project. Indications were given that the tendering process to construct the school would commence.
I ask the Minister of State to tell the House the current position. Was sanction given yesterday or will it be given this week to the tendering process? When will the construction of the school be advertised for tender? I am conscious that a substantial amount of money for the construction of schools during 2010 remains unspent and I am very anxious to be assured that not only will the tendering process be sanctioned and go ahead, but also that the funding is available to construct this school.
I am very conscious of the state of the public finances and the catastrophic difficulties confronting the State but in the context of tackling the major unemployment crisis we have, with in the region of 450,000 unemployed, there is great value to the State as well as to individual communities in the construction of school building projects going ahead. We can now build new schools at far less expense than was the case in the past. We have a huge body of construction workers currently unemployed in receipt of social welfare who are looking for employment. The construction of this school would not only be of substantial benefit to the local community in Knocklyon and to the students attending the school, but would provide badly needed employment.
In order for the school to be constructed, it has to move to a temporary site. I understand that it was the hope that if tendering proceeded or was sanctioned this week, the school would move to its temporary site next Easter and would be able to open after the Easter break at the temporary site so the project could be advanced and construction could start. I hope the timeframe that was indicated after literally 15 years battling to get this school built will be complied with and I hope the Minister will tell us on the record of the House this evening that the project is going ahead and the tendering process can start. If I am not going to be told that, I want the Minister to explain why that is the case.
This is a crucial moment for the construction of this school. Far too many pupils in this school are using prefabricated classrooms that are inadequate. The school lacks the type of library and play facilities it should have and the staff lack the basic facilities which should be available to teachers in a school of this size. I hope we will get some good news tonight and, if not, I hope the Minister will tell us why.