The Leas Cheann Comhairleach, Pat 'the cope' Gallagher has raised the current status of seven different Donegal schools directly with the Minister for Education Richard Bruton, during a recent Dáil debate.
The seven schools in question are Scoil Adhamhnain, Luinnaigh, Gaoth Dobhair, St Eunan's National School Raphoe, Abbey Vocational School, Donegal Town, Scoil Mhuire National School, Cresslough, The Royal and Prior School Raphoe, these five schools require additional accommodation or improvement works, while the other two schools namely Scoil na gCéithre Maistrí Donegal Town and St Mary's National School Stranorlar urgently require new builds.
"I brought to the attention of the Minister that many schools in Donegal simply are not getting fair play from this Government, with many projects dragging on for years with very little or no progress being made," he said.
The Dungloe-based representative added that many of these projects are languishing at different stages of progress but ultimately none of them have been given sanction for tender, while others are not even being considered by the Department for approval to move to design stage.
"The current situation in regard to St Mary’s National School and Gaelscoil na gCeithre Maistrí is impossible to defend – both of these schools could easily be moved to tender stage without any cost to the exchequer while at the same time moving the projects to construction stage. I am baffled as to why the Department have failed to identify the need for additional school capacity in Scoil Adhamhnain, Luinnaigh, St Eunan's National School Raphoe, Scoil Mhuire Cresslough; the respective Boards of Management of these schools have been lobbying extensively for additional accommodation within their schools but to no avail.
"I am also aware that the Royal and Prior School in Raphoe is in need of urgent improvement works but despite the urgent need, the Department and the Government have failed to sanction any funding for their application. In the case of the Abbey Vocational School Donegal Town, major work need to be carried out in order to deal with the growing numbers, these works need to be urgently prioritised as this year’s intake alone for the Abbey Vocational school will exceed 180 pupils," he said.
Deputy Gallagher challenged the Education Minister on the issue of failing to prioritise the various Donegal schools and the backlog of works that many Donegal schools urgently require.
"I put it to the Minister, that there is a complete failure to address the needs of the Donegal schools at present and the Government are ignoring the needs of the various schools in Donegal. It is apparent the Government are ignoring the Donegal schools and failing to be fair in dealing with applications from Donegal and this is backed up by the fact, that many Donegal schools are longer on the list for approval than some of the newly approved schools elsewhere in the country.
He urged the Government to reassess the school situation: "The Government needs to reassess and review these school projects highlighted by me and restore fairness in the process of approving school projects in Donegal because quite simply at present we are being left behind the rest of the country.
"The schools brought to the Ministers attention by me all deserve to be favourably considered in their own right rather than the current policy of the Department whereby schools from urban areas and the east coast are obtaining approval rather than lesser populated rural schools,"he said.