I welcome the Minister of State. The issue I wish to raise is of enormous importance to the entire school community in Malahide. The Minister of State previously came before the House to deal with an Adjournment matter relating to another school in Malahide, namely, St. Oliver Plunkett's. We are here to deal with a similar case involving similar issues.
Some 28 years ago, the Minister of State's Department provided prefabs at St. Sylvester's infant school in Malahide. This was supposed to be a temporary solution to the overcrowding problems at the school. The prefabs in question are dilapidated, freezing, noisy, overcrowded and not fit for purpose. In addition, they do not have toilets or running water in the winter months. The prefabs are completely unsuited to the new curriculum because they are too small. The school is seeking to rid itself of these despised prefabs and establish a built solution in the form of six permanent classrooms and two temporary resource rooms.
Inspectors from the Department visited the school in 2010 and agreed that the prefabs were both poorly designed and not fit for purpose. Astonishingly, another unit of the Department proceeded to purchase the prefabs, which were previously being rented, prior to Christmas. This was despite strong opposition to this from the school and the wider school community and the views expressed by the inspectorate. The purchase took place at a time when the pipes had again frozen and when children had to be removed from five of the rooms and taught in the small hall. I have in my possession a number of letters from members of the local community which were sent to the Department. Those who wrote the letters sought the Department's help and listed the defects to be found in the prefabs in question. As no satisfaction has been forthcoming, the community has begun a campaign, which I support, to encourage the Department to state that enough is enough and that the school will be provided with the permanent solution which is long overdue.
We often refer to the need to obtain value for money and initiatives relating thereto. Why should value for money apply only in new cases? When it argues that this is a value-for-money issue, the response the school receives appears to indicate that value for money only applies in such cases. That is daft. Value for money must apply in respect of every decision taken by each Government Department. This is the type of reform that will be required in respect of how the country is governed from now on. What is the position regarding the moneys from last year's capital budget that were returned unspent? It is frustrating for school communities and parents to see money being returned when the Department is purchasing prefabs which, according to its own criteria, are unfit for purpose. The decisions that have been made in respect of this matter are unforgivable.