Parents fear €650 bus fee

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Reporter:

Michelle Nic Phaidin

Concerned parents who send their children to a disadvantaged rural school could be forced to shell out an extra €650 a year on transport costs a meeting heard on Friday night last.

Concerned parents who send their children to a disadvantaged rural school could be forced to shell out an extra €650 a year on transport costs a meeting heard on Friday night last.

Parents from Scoil Eoin Baiste in Carrigart received letters from national transport company Bus Eireann in recent days which revealed that primary school children who are not eligible for school transport may have to pay a concessionary fee of up to €650. The letters were not sent out to all parents.

Following the meeting, it was agreed that a petition be put together and that the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Ciaran Cannon would be invited to the area to discuss the rising school transport costs. An emergency motion outlining the issue will be tabled at the next meeting of Donegal County Council. Eighty nine children were registered to attend the school in September 2010. The school was established in 1970. Five teachers and 3 Special Needs Teaching Assistants (SNA) work at the school.

School Principal Netty Gibson told those present that she was of the opinion that the move could force children to other schools which would affect the number of teachers and services that a school could provide. She urged parents to stand strong and put an end to the move. “You have to put a stop to it. If you give them an inch they will take a mile,” she said.

She told those present that school transport had been the bane of her life since she came to the school around three decades ago adding that Bus Eireann were only implementing a policy that the Government had decided.

Councillor Noel McBride who was chairing the meeting said the policy was the doing of the previous Government. “I don’t want to make this political but there are parents who are going to be affected by this from Malin Head to Fanad Head. Bus Eireann have administered transport down the years and have been a law unto themselves. There is no need for Bus Eireann to be doing this at all it should be brought down to local level. All Bus Eireann did was take a fist full of money for administration,” he said.

He told those present, when the issue was raised, that strike action would achieve nothing.

Parents told those present that there were members of the community where both parents were working and would find it difficult to leave a child at school, other parents said that there were parents who had no cars and others raised the question of the safety of their children should they have to walk.

Sinn Fein Deputy Padraig MacLochlainn said that this move was one that would further burden the rural communities. He said that in this case he would encourage “people power” adding that “this policy would turn school against school. It’s an outrage and it’s unacceptable.”

Councillor Liam Blaney said that there needs to a review of the policy. He added that he was tabling an emergency motion at the next Donegal County Council meeting urging the minister for transport to reverse the controversial decision.