Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., today announced a list of 42 new schools.
A Donegal TD says he is “absolutely shocked” that not one Donegal school is included in plans announced today by the Minister for Education and Skills for the establishment of 42 new schools over the next four years.
He accused the government of “setting a new precedent whereby urban growth areas are getting preference over all other area”.
Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, T.D., announcing the list of schools today, said it follows a nationwide demographic exercises carried out by his Department into the current and future need for primary and post-primary school places across the country.
The Minister announced 42 new schools - 26 schools at primary level and 16 at post-primary level.
Pat the Cope Gallagher TD has criticised the exclusion of any school from Donegal, stating that the plan ignores rural Ireland as no Donegal schools are included in 2019 to 2022 strategy.
Whilst welcoming the government’s commitment to construct new school buildings as part of their strategy, Deputy Gallagher said demographics should not be the sole determinant in the school buildings programme announced.
Gallagher, who is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, said he is “absolutely shocked” that no Donegal school has made it on to the building programme.
He said the absence of any Donegal school on the list was more surprising because “quite a number of schools throughout the county, are awaiting approval for construction, with other schools waiting to get through the cumbersome and lengthy building process and procedures of the Department, which eventually lead to permission to go to construction”.
Deputy Gallagher said the government had “again failed to ‘rural-proof’ their policies”
He said the list of schools announced, many of them in large urban centres in Dublin and elsewhere, “is another example of how rural Ireland is not given fair play or an equal share in the recovery”.
He said “time and time again we see how rural Ireland is being left behind and how this government have a different set of criteria in how they deal with rural areas such as Donegal.”
He said the announcement “copper fastens that policy of rural neglect”.
He said in the interim he was requesting the Minister to favourably consider all Donegal School Applications under the Summer Works Scheme, Emergency Works Scheme and Minor Works Scheme, in order that these schools are maintained until such time as further Capital works can be approved.
He said schools such as St Mary’s National School, Stranorlar, Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí Donegal Town require new buildings while numerous other schools in Donegal such as Abbey Vocational School, Scoil Mhuire Belcruit, Scoil Mhuire Creeslough, Scoil Adhamhnain Luinneach, Dunkineely NS, Donoughmore NS, Castlefin, Little Angels Letterkenny, St Eunan’s College Letterkenny, Derryconnor NS, Buncrana 3 School Campus, require extensions due to capacity issues or due to the fact that the school buildings are deteriorating rapidly and require upgrading or renewal in order to be fit for purpose.
“These school issues have been raised on numerous occasions by me in the Dáil and on each occasion the Minister has failed to act and failed to sanction new school building for these Donegal Schools.”
Deputy Gallagher claimed when the Minister of Education toured Donegal schools he failed to visit St Mary’s National School despite being invited to the school.
He said if the Government persists on their policy of favouring urban schools over rural areas then many schools in Donegal may never get eventual approval for construction of their much needed new schools.
“A school overcrowded in rural Ireland is no different to an overcrowded school in urban areas but this Government has failed to recognise the needs of rural areas, insisting instead on providing prefabs and temporary accommodation for rural areas rather than the new school buildings for urban area . This policy or rural neglect and failing to identify the needs of rural area must be reversed and a level playing field provided for all regardless of what postal address the respective schools,” he said.