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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Ionad Oideachais (Gaillimh).

Thursday, 28 March 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 463 No. 5

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 9. D'fhiafraighÉamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  den Aire Oideachais Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  an bhfuil sé i gceist aici Stiúrthóir lánaimseartha a cheapadh ar Ionad na Múinteoirí i nGaillimh; agus an ndéanfaidh sí ráiteas ina thaobh. [6200/96]

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach Maidir le ceapachán Stiúrthóra lánaimseartha don Ionad Oideachais i nGaillimh, ba mhaith liom a chur in iúl go gcuirfidh mé an cheist san áireamh i gcomhthéacs forbairt agus feabhsú na nIonad Oideachais i gcoitinne.

Tá athbhreithniú á dhéanamh agam ar fhorbairt agus ar fheabhsú na nIonad Oideachais faoi láthair, ach níl cinneadh déanta agam go fóill. Tuigim go bhfuil sárobair ar siúl san Ionad Oideachais i nGaillimh agus go bhfuil réimse leathan de chúrsaí eagraithe go hanéifeachtach do mhúinteoirí bunscoile agus meánscoile sa réigiún.

[1384]Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I thank the Minister for her reply. I wrote to her Department and received an acknowledgment dated 28 September 1994. Why has it not been possible to give me this information since then?

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Systems failure.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Why have I had to wait until March 1996 to get this reply? This is not an isolated incident. It is not unusual to have to wait so long to get a simple factual reply from her Department. Every time I ask a member of this Government a question on any matter I am told that a commission, committee or working group is examining it. Other Members are more fortunate in getting replies. What is the explanation for the decision to appoint a full-time stiúrthóir in Port Láirge yet a similar decision could not be made for a city the size of Galway?

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I note the Deputy's remarks about waiting for a reply to his correspondence and I will convey them to the relevant officials. On the specific question concerning the Galway Education Centre, some centres have been established while others are under consideration. Phase I has commenced and active consideration is being given to identifying the areas where full-time education centres should be established. I assure the Deputy that when those decisions are taken neither he nor the Galway Education Centre, which I hold in high esteem, will have to wait the same length of time for the information.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív The Minister said she will convey my remarks to officials in her Department but it was the Minister who wrote to me saying she would be in contact with me soon. “Tá fiosrucháin á dhéanamh agam sa cheist seo agus scríobhfaidh mé chugat chomh luath agus is féidir,” a dúirt sí.

That letter came from the Minister, not an official, and it is unfair of her to blame people who cannot be here to defend themselves if a system fails in [1385] her office. Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have had a problem in obtaining replies from the Department. Members should not have to come into this House to get basic information that should be given by the Department within two or three weeks.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Joe Jacob Zoom on Joe Jacob A question, Deputy.

Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív Why do we not get replies from the Department when they are promised by the Minister? In regard to my original question, the Minister said the matter is under active consideration. Is she telling me that 18 months ago it was also under active consideration? Does the Minister believe that spending 18 months cogitating over a matter is “active consideration”? If that is active consideration, will the Minister define “inactive consideration”?

Ms Keogh: Information on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh Zoom on Helen Catherine Anne Keogh Passive.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I again apologise to the Deputy for any discourtesy arising from delays to correspondence. During the term of the Structural Funds investment education centres will be upgraded in the area for which I have responsibility. Phase I has begun and decisions on Phase II will be taken. “Inactive” is like a stone in a fireplace but that is not how I would describe Galway and other areas to which we make more funding available as it comes on-stream. We are all well aware of the work of the Galway Education Centre, particularly in regard to the in-career development unit in the Department which was given an allocation of £10,000 for operational costs in 1995.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin This is the third time the Minister has had to apologise for delays in replying to correspondence. Something is dreadfully wrong in the Minister's office, and it is not a laughing matter. On a serious issue earlier today she apportioned blame to a senior official in her Department for the delay in relation to the examinations issue. The Minister [1386] signed the letters of acknowledgment. It is extraordinary that it takes months for Members of this House to receive considered replies from the Minister who must accept responsibility for the operation of her office.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach This matter must be kept in proportion. My Department receives approximately 1,000 letters a week and the number of delays compared to the number of letters received is quite small. I agree there should not be any delays and I have been willing to apologise to the House for delays which occurred. When such delays are brought to my attention I investigate the system that allows that to happen so as to ensure delays do not occur in the future. I would not like the view to be conveyed to the public that the system is inefficient; the system is generally efficient and is handled well by the officials in the Department.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin I cannot accept the system is efficient and Members of this House, in the first instance, should receive priority over any system. The Minister has been in office for more than three years. The volume of correspondence dealt with by the Department of Social Welfare, for example, far exceeds that dealt with by the Department of Education. There is an urgent need for a review and a radical overhaul of the mechanisms employed by the Minister to respond to representations by Members. The examinations issue was a fundamental one which should have set alarm bells ringing immediately but the Minister did not respond.

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