I thank the Minister of State for coming into the Chamber to respond to this Topical Issue matter. I thank his Department and Bus Éireann for the good work they have done in recent weeks in north Cork and in Ballyduff in the Minister of State's county of Waterford. Issues regarding school bus transport have been resolved in those areas. A similar issue remains in Mallow, however, regarding the St Joseph's Road catchment area for children attending Gaelscoil Thomáis Dáibhís. In areas such as Castlelands, for example, more than 20 children have been left without public bus transport.
Gaelscoil Thomáis Dáibhís, Mallow, is a successful school in north Cork. It continues to grow and attract increasing numbers of pupils. One of the provisions of its planning approval some years ago was a stipulation that there be an attempt to reduce the number of children dropped off at the school by parents. Providing school bus transport would be one solution. School bus transport was available to all the families who had children going to the Gaelscoil in recent years. This year, for some reason, there has been an increase in the number of pupils seeking to avail of the public bus transport on this route. We now have a scenario where parents have to change their work practices and times and to cope with other forms of disruptions in order that they can get their children to school, which in the case of many such parents is more than 2.5 km away.
This has been a concessionary area in previous years. We must, however, think outside of the box regarding restrictions and qualifications. In the past week, climate change has been the topic of much conversation, as has a reduction the amount of transport on the roads but to do that will mean having buses. I ask the Minister of State to intercede in this case because it is an emergency. This concerns primary school children aged up to 11 or 12 years. The Minister of State has interceded in similar situations recently and made money available for areas including north Cork and west Waterford. I commend him on doing that. He needs to intercede in this case as well because this situation has been causing major problems for parents in recent weeks. I am still receiving telephone calls from parents. They are telling me that they have had to give up their day jobs because their working hours conflict with the need to bring their children to school.
The other major issue is the general traffic disruption caused in Mallow. It is not an easy town to get through. There have been recent repairs to the bridge in the town, which created unnecessary extra journey times. We must remember that Mallow is a big town. I will leave this issue in the hands of the Minister of State after I make one final point. Bus companies find it hard to get people to work for just a few hours a day. One of the restrictions affecting Bus Éireann is that the company will not employ drivers who are older than 70. That is a major anomaly. We are encouraging people to work longer and yet this type of restriction exists. The Minister of State knows that it is difficult to get people to take up a job for only a few hours a day. That type of employment would, however, suit elderly people who are capable and keen to drive our buses. I ask the Minister of State, therefore, to intercede in this issue regarding Gaelscoil Thomáis Dáibhís in Mallow.