Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Ceisteanna (33)

Mattie McGrath


33. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the amalgamation of Cahir national schools; his views on the long duration of the process; the reason for same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47792/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (12 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Education)

This is about the status of the amalgamation of Cahir national schools and the Minister's views on the long duration of the process. It is going on for almost two decades, fiche bliain ag fás. Will he give the reason for same and make a statement on the matter? Cá bhfuil our scoil? We are waiting 20 years for it. He is the tenth Minister so I hope he has good news for me.

The decision making authority for any amalgamation belongs to the patron or trustees of the school, and this is subject to my Department's approval. The Department understands that the timing of the amalgamation is being considered in the context of the delivery of the building project. It awaits confirmation from the patron in this regard.

A building project to provide a new 16-classroom primary school with special educational needs base to facilitate the amalgamation is currently progressing through the architectural planning process. Statutory approvals have been obtained and the project is currently at stage 3, which is the tender stage of the architectural planning process.

Whether I am the tenth Minister, although I believe I am the fortieth Minister since the foundation of the State, I will be happy to keep progress and momentum on this to the fore.

It is fiche bliain or longer since this project started. Speaking of the patron, the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy gave the site. Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan has been more than helpful and willing. The parish priest, an sagart paróiste, and the parish council met recently and decided to gift the Minister the site, so he cannot hide behind blaming the parish, the patrons or anybody else. The site for the car park has been gifted. The Minister said something very peculiar in a previous reply to me. He said the Department is seeking rights to the site even if a school does not continue at the site in the future. Will he explain that? I do not know what type of thinking there is in the Department now.

I refer to the parent councils, the boards of management and the parents. We have many different nationalities in the school and they are very welcome. Tá fíor-fháilte roimh gach éinne go dtí Cathair Dún Iascaigh. There are up to 15 different nationalities, but they are in Dickensian conditions. We cannot wait any longer. This project has been kicked down the road. I have had so many replies to parliamentary questions I could paper my bedroom with them. However, I want to see the school classrooms, not my bedroom. I do not want to hear the Minister say it is in the hands of the patrons, the boards of management and the trustees. It has been already signed off and gifted by the parish community in Cahir and Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan. The Minister should be grateful for that, acknowledge it and forget the delays.

The land was signed over on 9 October. Approvals have been obtained and the project is at the tender stage. Tenders are due for return by 22 November. The tender process has been extended on a number of occasions, and I appreciate the frustration that the boards of management, parents, students and teaching staff have gone through regarding the delays, but this was to allow for the resolution of some legalities relating to the site and no further extensions to the tender return date are anticipated. I do not expect any delays in the return of tenders on 22 November.

I am glad the Minister cleared that up. I knew the parish community, parish council, parish priest and the bishop had signed off on it. I believe them. Of course I do. One does not get many free sites these days, and the Minister has been given a great gift from the clergy in the parish. He should be grateful for that. I was told several times previously that tenders were at the stage of pre-qualification of contracts for the project. The Minister is hiding behind every kind of an excuse. Now he has acknowledged on the floor of the Dáil that the site has been gifted to the Department, I want to see this project, because of the children - na daoine óga - and because of the parents, the parents' council, both boards of management, several retired parish priests and principals who are patrons there, the whole community - ní neart go cur le chéile, is what we believe in Cathair Dún Iascaigh - all our newcomers, and the people to come. We want a half decent - fully decent - proper, amalgamated national school with 16 rooms and facilities for pupils with special needs. It also has to have safe parking. I must salute An Garda Síochána, the traffic warden, and of course the parents on trying to manage the situation at the school, which is very difficult at peak times. There should be no more roadblocks, fences or blaming anyone else. The Minister should just get the project under way. We hope we can get him down as the tenth Minister to turn the sod. We will all be there and we can have a cup of tea afterwards in Cahir House Hotel. That is a great idea.

I wish to separate the amalgamation from the tendering process. The amalgamation is being considered in the context of the delivery of the building project, but we await confirmation from the patron. It is on the amalgamation that we await confirmation from the patron.

It was the next best thing.

I also wish to put on the record that the site was not gifted. I will not go into the details of that here today.

No, it was not.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.

I appreciate the frustration involved in the delay of the building project and the competing demands at an educational level in this school. I will be vigilant and ensure that we keep moving forward on it.