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Hanafin must oppose school water charges – Doherty

18 December, 2007


Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty, speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee today, has called on Minister Mary Hanafin to oppose attempts by Environment Minister John Gormley to impose water charges on schools.

Speaking after the meeting Senator Doherty said, "Minister Hanafin has a duty to protect schools and to ensure the best use of their budgets. The committee heard today that the capitation grant is only covering 50% of the running costs of schools while the rest of the costs are met through voluntary contributions and school fundraising initiatives by parents and staff.

"If these water charges are introduced it will have a devastating effect on schools throughout the state. The meeting was told today of one school with approximately 40 students which received bill for €5,000. And that is on top of all the other costs that the school is already trying to cover. For this reason the Minister must oppose the attempts by Environment Minister John Gormley to introduce these charges.

"While we all accept that preserving water must be prioritised this is a ridiculously simplistic way to go about it. More imaginative solutions are required. Perhaps by requiring that publicly funded buildings such as schools install water saving devices. Simply requiring that they pay for water from budgets that are already under severe strain seems to make little sense, either from a financial or a conservation point of view.

"The Minister has previously claimed that the charges have to be introduced as they are part of an EU directive. However this has been strongly refuted by her party colleague Dick Roche and I would call on Minister Hanafin to clarify the situation. Seven years after the introduction of this directive the Government are clearly still quite confused about the legal interpretation of it. That is unacceptable as it is the schools who are now suffering the consequences." ENDS

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