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 Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Education and Training Provision

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 879 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Martin Heydon: Information on Martin Heydon Zoom on Martin Heydon] We need to see the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill enacted. When can we expect it to become law? Its enactment is a key element in enabling Ireland to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It is key legislation that I hope we will see in the lifetime of the Government.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am informed by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Kathleen Lynch, that it is to go before the committee on 17 June.

Deputy Tony McLoughlin: Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin With regard to the often-long delays in the criminal trial process and the need to reduce delays in the criminal justice system generally, when can we expect the criminal procedure Bill to be brought before the House for debate? Will it be during this Dáil term?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I cannot give the Deputy an accurate date, but it is due for introduction here later in the year.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Tá a lán ceisteanna agam don Taoiseach. One concerns the EirGrid legislation. There is considerable angst in the community over it. It has been postponed time and again. We never get any date for it because, as I have stated previously, dates have been changed on account of public hearings and public submissions.

Only two general practitioners in Tipperary have signed up under the health (general practitioner service) legislation. I can speak only for Tipperary. There is a considerable amount of intimidation and bullying and there are threats. Where are the under-sixes to go if they cannot go to the general practitioners who treat their families? This is farcical in the extreme. I hope the Taoiseach will, at this late stage, ask the Minister for Health to engage meaningfully with the doctors. The doctors provide front-line services, and there is enormous pressure.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Health (General Practitioner Service) Bill 2015 is due to be taken on Report Stage tomorrow. My understanding is that about 100 general practitioners per day are signing up.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Not in Tipperary.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny  I hope the general practitioners will sign up also.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath They cannot sign up.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is a very good scheme for providing free access to services for under-sixes and over-70s.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Blackmail.

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan With regard to promised legislation, what is the current position on the Red Cross (amendment) Bill, which has been promised for some time and which is being sought with some considerable interest? What is the position on the energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill, which will generate some debate on electricity generation, wind energy, fossil fuel energy and the extent to which energy in general will feed into the national grid?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The energy (miscellaneous provisions) Bill is listed for later in the year. I cannot give the Deputy a date for the Red Cross (amendment) Bill, but I will revert to him on the work that is under way.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Since Deputy Pearse Doherty is not present to deal with First Stage of his Private Members' Bill, the Central Bank (Mortgage Interest Rates) Bill 2015, we must postpone it and move on to the Topical Issue debate.

Topical Issue Debate

Education and Training Provision

Deputy Kieran O'Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell I thank the Ceann Comhairle for the chance to raise this very important issue. It involves East Limerick Centre for Further Education and Training in Cappamore in County Limerick, an area I represent as a Deputy. The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board recently informed the college that it is seeking to cease offering 83 post-leaving certificate, PLC, places for students for the next academic year. The people of Cappamore feel very strongly about this. I want to ensure the cessation does not take place. Cappamore had a secondary school up to 2013 and thereafter it evolved into a third level institution, a college of further education, East Limerick Centre for Further Education and Training. Eighty three places were allocated under a rural remit for Cappamore and east Limerick. That is the key element to this. The places were allocated to ensure students who have completed their leaving certificate and who are living in rural east Limerick and surrounding areas, such as Moroe, Caherconlish, Cappamore itself, Bilboa and Pallas Grean, could attend college in a rural setting. We now find it has been proposed that the 83 PLC places will be transferred to Mulgrave Street in the city. The Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board does fantastic work both in the city and county but it is extremely important to recognise the vital nature of the 83 places for students in a rural setting.

I met the CEO of Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, Mr. George O'Callaghan, recently. He committed to carrying out a review of the decision, which I very much welcome. Furthermore, he stated the board is committed to the future of the college in Cappamore in terms of driving it forward.

I ask that the 83 places be retained. I ask the Minister of State, Deputy Damien English, to confirm that the review is now under way. It should be an independent review, which is what the people of Cappamore and the surrounding areas want. We recently had a meeting with community leaders from Cappamore, led by Cappamore Development Association, and Mr. O'Callaghan to discuss this matter. Mr. O'Callaghan reiterated that a review of the places would be carried out and that they would be retained.

I want to see in the first instance a commitment to retain the 83 places and, second, a drive to create further courses on the campus of 3.5 acres. The college has a capacity of up to 210 students, which is well in excess of the 83 threatened PLC places. There are extra courses also. There is a blacksmith course, which is unique in Ireland and which operates under a City & Guilds programme, and there is a horticulture course. The key reason I am raising this issue in the Dáil this afternoon is the vital importance of the courses to Cappamore. Many of the students may not be able to travel to a city setting to avail of education. I would not like to see anybody unable to avail of PLCs and further education in the area in which he or she lives. That is the number-one criterion. It is a matter of rural rejuvenation. The college is in the heart of rural east Limerick and the 83 places need to be preserved. We need to enhance further what the college is providing. It has enormous capacity. There are 210 available places and the college is on a 3.5 acre site.

Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills (Deputy Damien English): Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English I thank the Deputy for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline the position on the allocation of PLC places in general and also in Cappamore.

By way of background, PLC places are allocated by SOLAS to the education and training boards, ETBs, and other schools as part of an annual service plan process. There are 32,688 approved PLC places nationwide. For each approved place, my Department provides a staffing allocation and non-pay capitation. The majority of these places are provided by ETBs in recognised ETB schools and stand-alone PLC colleges, but also in voluntary secondary and community and comprehensive schools, across the country.

SOLAS, the new further education and training authority, has been tasked with ensuring the provision of high-quality further education and training programmes that are responsive to the needs of all learners and the requirements of a changed and changing economy.

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