Tanaiste under fire

Tanaiste under fire

Tanaiste under fire

Tnaiste Mary Coughlan has come under fire after it was revealed that an application for 40 million euro in European Union training funds for the construction sector has still not been completed.

The tnaiste submitted the application for the funds to the European Commission last June and at the time said the funds would support the training of nearly 9,000 workers.

But the Sunday Business Post has reported that eight months later, "the application is in limbo while thousands of workers who had been employed in the sector emigrate to find work".

According to the Sunday Business Post, the Department of Education told Kieran O'Donnell, Fine Gael spokesperson for enterprise, that only an "indicative application" and not a formal application, had been lodged with the commission.

Under the terms of the training fund, there is a 24-month period for implementing the scheme from the time it was announced in June 2010.

"Funds were made available from the same source for the redundant Dell workers within five months. Are IT workers considered more valuable than or Donegal construction workers?" asked independent Cllr. Thomas Pringle. "The people of Donegal and the country are entitled to a full explanation from the Tnaiste."

He noted that the announcement of the upskilling programme was announced last year "in a blaze of publicity" and gave some hope to devastated construction workers. "Now we discover that the minister merely indicated to the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund that an application would be made," he said.

In another matter, The Irish Times reported that the Department of Education and Skills confirmed that a claim for 57 million euro that Fs spent on training and which Europe was to repay, was withdrawn after European audits raised questions.

Ireland has agreed not to request any further social fund payments until the questions are resolved, according to The Irish Times. But a spokesperson for the tnaiste and minister for education and skills told the newspaper that no loss to the exchequer was expected.