My Department has had a number of meetings with representatives of St. Joseph's, the most recent of which took place on 29 January last. Further discussions are planned.
It is important to clarify the context and purpose of the current round of meetings. Arising from the report of a planning group, which was established to consider proposals for the development of a national centre for the visually impaired, my Department engaged a project team to consider an overall development strategy for the implementation of the planning group's report. The report of the project team was presented to my Department towards the end of 2002.
Having given careful consideration to the matter, I decided in April 2003 that the national centre as proposed should not proceed, having regard to the low and declining pupil numbers in the schools for the visually impaired and the development costs, estimated to be in excess of €30 million. The purpose of the current discussions is to explore with the school authorities concerned how aspects of the proposed centre could be developed in the context of available resources.
My Department expects to be in contact shortly with representatives of St. Joseph's in response to its outline proposal for the provision of a national centre for visually impaired. It should be noted that projects that require funding from the Exchequer, either through conventional procurement means or otherwise, must, like all other major capital projects, be thoroughly and rigorously assessed on grounds of need, viability, affordability and compliance with public procurement legislation. My Department is grant-aiding the provision of additional accommodation at Pobalscoil Rosmini and these works are expected to be completed shortly.