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Hanafin must publish school building list - Doherty

13 March, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has called on the Education Minister Mary Hanafin to publish a complete list of school projects in the building programme together with indicative times for completion. Speaking in the Seanad today Senator Doherty said political accountability must be re-introduced to the Department of Education.

He said, "The minister for Education and Science's predecessor Noel Dempsey published lists of all school buildings which included priority ratings and indicative dates of construction. This brought a much needed measure of transparency and openness of information into the process which up to then had been secretive. In general, school communities were of the opinion that the system was fair.

"Mary Hanafin completely abandoned this system and since taking office has not published a comprehensive picture of the building programme. Many schools have been waiting years for an indication of when their projects will commence. No lists are available and there is a huge lack of transparency around the whole issue.

"Truly the issue of school buildings and the neglect shown to them by this government is something which we are now seeing all too often. Schools in this country have entered into financial crisis and this is plain to see. From soaring water charges, to under-resourced classes, to overcrowded class-rooms, the underinvestment in education by the 26 county Government, most especially in the primary sector, is truly appalling.

"In my own constituency in Donegal there is a school, Scoil Mhuire in Cresslough, in which children must sit three to a seat and in some classrooms it has been reported that children sit on the floor because of the simple fact that there is just not enough space and desks. The classrooms and their size are described as unsuitable for many of today's subjects such as practical science. This school desperately needs extra space, more classrooms and full upgrading of the existing facilities.

"The Minister must re-introduce political accountability into her Department. She must publish a complete list of school projects in the building programme together with indicative times for completion.

"Schools around the country need answers. Too long have they been kept in the dark, too long have they been left waiting and wondering, too long have pupils attended class in conditions not befitting an animal." ENDS

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