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 Header Item Bord na Móna (Continued)
 Header Item School Enrolments

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 950 No. 3

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Deputy Alan Kelly: Information on Alan Kelly Zoom on Alan Kelly I thank the Minister of State for his efforts in reading that out. As I said earlier, a political charge was made. In June 2015, the CEO of the company came and spoke very well to the workers. I regret, however, that a senior member of Bord na Móna did not come down to meet the workers to tell them they were losing their jobs. It is unacceptable that a senior representative of the company at board or management level was not there on the day of the closure of an industry which has been in place for multiple generations. When the CEO addressed the workers in June 2015, he outlined a potential investment plan to create projects in the plant. I very much welcomed the proposed heat and power plant, but there were a number of conditions which the CEO outlined to the workers. In the circumstances, the charge which was made this morning was childish. Not only was it childish, but I note that Deputy Micheál Martin is a former history teacher and that he must like engaging in revisionism. I would like him to correct what he said. The heat and power plant did not happen as I found out long after I left Government because management decided against it due to issues around connectivity to the grid, the cost associated with it and the changing commercial situation with the lowering of volumes of briquette production.

I ask the Minister of State to relay a number of things back to the Minister. We need an extension of time. This has been a bolt from the blue for the workers and an extension will give them time to format their lives and plan. We need a plan for the resource and plant that is left in place. The peat that is left there needs to be exported which would save some jobs and create others. As somebody who supports workers, I note finally that the redundancy package is unfair. I do not know how it was negotiated in the first place. The workers with the longest time served will, on average, do worse, which is incredible. I know the Minister will have to talk to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform about that and I ask the Minister of State to ask him to do so.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I would not like to get into a scrap between Deputies Alan Kelly and Micheál Martin, so I will stay out of that aspect of the debate. Deputy Kelly is right to come here to defend and fight for the rights of workers. That is the duty of all of us. The issues he raises are very important. He referred, for example, to the remaining plant there and the capacity for export. There is an issue I will bring back to the Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten. There is also the whole issue of the extension of the closing date and demand for the produce internationally, including in European countries. I do not know what can be done about the €10 million dividend, but these are issues at which we must all look. We all have a duty to try to ensure that people are employed. A very important issue and one which I would find unacceptable would be any injustice in the redundancy package. Deputy Kelly said people with 35 years service were not getting justice and that is something I will also bring back to the Minister, Deputy Denis Naughten.

School Enrolments

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly It is hardly necessary for me to rehearse all of the issues again. We have had this discussion several times already. On 1 March, the Minister advised me that one of the primary schools in Swords was undersubscribed, if not to the extent that it would be able to absorb the excess capacity, although he failed to mention that it was a boys-only school and, therefore, not in a position to deal with the full waiting list. The Minister said he would monitor the situation as the schools completed their enrolment process in the coming weeks. That was ten weeks ago. While I hate to say it given the fact that the children have not even had their summer holidays, we are quickly approaching September. Some two or three weeks ago, I spoke with a number of parents with children in the Holy Family national school at the moment whose siblings are waiting to attend. They have been in touch with me since to say they still have no clarity. It appears that the Minister is waiting for this situation to somehow magically resolve itself, but it is not going to. There is a need for action on the part of the Minister and the Department to deal with this on a proactive basis. It is not a case that will sort itself out once the waiting lists are cleared because there are children who are going to be left without places. The last time we discussed this, I asked the Minister if he would consider emergency or temporary measures. I also asked him to consider doing everything possible. I want to hear from him this evening what will be done because these people will be back on to my office as well as to those of the other Members representing the area.

This is a very serious issue in particular for those people whose children are already in the school with siblings waiting to attend. It is also very serious for those children born in November and December. They are not eligible for an additional year of the ECCE scheme and, as such, cannot go back to crèche. Their parents face having to return them to and pay for crèche facilities. At least one mother maintains it will probably not be worth her while to work given that she will have to pay over so much money. It is unfair to leave families waiting in limbo.

The Minister will not dispute that we have a growing population as evidenced by the census. While it is clear we need something done in the short term, there is a real need in Swords to increase school capacity in the long term. This is not a case of parents saying they only want their children to go to the local school. If the Minister has ever been in Swords in the morning, he will know that it is not possible for these parents to drop one sibling to the Holy Family and to then make it in any reasonable time to another part of Swords to drop another child off at a different school. It is also not reasonable to expect siblings to go to separate schools. All these parents want is to be able to educate sibling children in the school that is closest to their homes and rooted in the community where their children play sports and are growing up among their friends. While it is a long time since I had to think about these issues, that is all I wanted as a parent myself. It is what most parents want.

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I thank Deputy Louise O'Reilly for raising this issue again and I understand the concern. There are 11 schools in the Swords area which enrol junior infants and they run across the spectrum from Catholic schools, one Gaelscoil, Educate Together and a Church of Ireland school. The basic problem here is that the Holy Family junior national school is maxed out and cannot take in additional junior infants at this point. It is already full and its senior school, which would also have to take any increased enrolment, is on a very constrained site. As such, expanding capacity at the Holy Family junior national school is not an option.

There are 760 children who are due to be taken into junior infants across the 11 schools in Swords. I am told that two schools currently have junior infant places available. St. Cronin's, which has the largest number of available places, is a mixed school, not an all-boys school. The schools have also expressed a willingness to offer further junior infant places for September 2017 if necessary. As such, there is capacity available to meet the need. The Department is very much aware of the position in the Holy Family school, which has 26 mainstream teachers and an enrolment of 680 pupils. We have been liaising across the various schools to check their waiting lists. As the Deputy knows, there is multiple enrolment on waiting lists, which makes it difficult to identify exactly what is the need.


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