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Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - Provision of Independent regional technical college in Castlebar.

Thursday, 28 March 1996

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 463 No. 5

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 5. Mr. Martin Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  asked the Minister for Education Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach  whether she is committed to the growth and development of a fully fledged independent regional technical college in Castlebar, County Mayo; and financial resources, if any, what have been made available in the 1996 Estimates to give effect to such growth and expansion. [6846/96]

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach A sum of the order of £2.2 million has been expended to date on third level capital developments at the Castlebar campus. A further provision of around £450,000 has been included in my Department's 1996 capital programme to meet the final costs of the current project. A recent proposal from Galway regional technical college to expand facilities at the Castlebar [1373] campus is being evaluated by my Department.

My Department does not allocate specific recurrent funding for the Castlebar campus. Such provision is a matter for Galway regional technical college from within its annual budget. It is estimated that such recurrent funding is in excess of £1 million.

The development of the Castlebar campus of Galway regional technical college is a new and unique concept in the regional technical college sector. The steering committee on the future development of higher education recommended in its report that this new concept should be kept under review over the next three to five years. Pending this review of the development, it would be premature to make decisions on the question of a fully independent regional technical college for Castlebar.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Will the Minister comment on concerns expressed by the regional technical college action committee in Castlebar that the Department of Education has not adopted a proactive approach to the growth and development of the facility at Castlebar? That committee is extremely concerned about the Minister's lack of political commitment to develop this facility into a fully fledged independent regional technical college.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I reassure the people of Castlebar, including those in the action committee, that a financial commitment to the facility there has been met. I demonstrated my commitment to the success of the Castlebar campus by visiting it and I was delighted with the welcome I received. There is a financial commitment to that campus to accommodate the educational needs of the people in Mayo and the surrounding region. The Programme for Government stated that we would consolidate and develop the educational programme in Castlebar. That has been done and development will continue. The steering committee established to report on the future development of [1374] higher education needs recommended that the position should be kept under review to evaluate the success and effectiveness of the second campus concept and its impact on other institutions in the region over, say, three to five years. It recommended that emphasis should be placed on the development of specialisations linked to local needs. I met any commitment I gave by investment in that facility. It is very much part of the overall picture addressed by the steering committee. The campus was opened in the past year and it was agreed it would be reviewed in three to five years. I must wait for that review. It is premature to question the Government's commitment to the facility which has been opened for one academic year. A firm commitment to the needs in that area is evidenced by the building of that complex and facilities on that campus.

Mr. Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin The concern about this matter in the region and the articulation of it in the terms I outlined to the Minister, is that the language used in the context of Castlebar in the Programme for Government is much different from that used in dealing with facilities at Dún Laoghaire and Tipperary. The term “consolidation” does not give great grounds for optimism that the Department will take a lead role in expanding and developing the facility at Castlebar. National decisions will impinge on the development in Castlebar of degree courses and particular flagship courses. There is a view that the Department is not taking a leadership role in developing the facility in Castlebar. In the context of other developments it is considered the poor relation.

Ms Bhreathnach: Information on Niamh Bhreathnach Zoom on Niamh Bhreathnach I reassure those who are concerned about this matter that the Government is committed to and has made a concrete investment in the Castlebar campus. The steering committee recommended that its development be reviewed in three to five years' time, and that will be done. It is timely as the first academic year [1375] draws to a close to congratulate all those involved in this unique development. We are very concerned it will be a great success for the sector and the region.


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