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Reilly challenges Junior Education Minister on cuts to school transport

28 June, 2011

Speaking today in a Seanad debate on Primary School Transport, Sinn Féin Senator Kathryn Reilly challenged Junior Minister Ciarán Cannon on his proposed cuts.

Senator Reilly said:

“Minister Cannon said last week that the changes implemented this year are expected to produce a saving in the order of €3.5 million and still have to find another €13.5 million in savings over the next three years.

“Today he is telling us that savings of €4million are expected in 2011 and €14million up to 2014. Which are the correct figures?

“Where will these “savings” come from?

“With many families struggling from week to week and 1 in 5 only having €70 left at the end of the month after bills this could see families unable to afford to safely send their child to school.

“The minimum number of children to require a route will rise from 7 to 10. How many children will be left without a bus route due to this stroke of a pen?

“But this is only the tip of the iceberg. What is planned next? Where will the further €13.5 million or €14 million come from? Charging schoolchildren road tax on their bicycles?

“The Minister of State has mentioned that Bus Éireann is conducting a study on these services. When will this analysis be completed? How will the findings of the analysis feed into the impending crisis in September of children’s inability to get a bus to school? We are looking into July now, 2 months out from September and we have not yet seen this report and how it will affect families.”

Speaking after the debate, Senator Reilly also criticised the lack of answers from the Minister:

“The ending of the Closed School Rule is the ending of an historical commitment to communities in some rural townlands by the Department of Education following closure of their local school. This is dishonourable.

“The guarantees given then created a sense of trust and commitment but that no longer exists.

“The general view is that these cuts are an attack on rural communities and will put further financial pressure on hard pressed families.

“These cuts will be detrimental unless there is fair and proper adjudication of the system. And the Minister did not address or respond to any of my concerns.

“The inadequate time allocated to the debate today- only one hour fifteen minutes- is completely disproportionate to the scale of the crisis that is facing primary school students and their families in September.

“It makes a mockery of the Government’s commitment to access to education, right of choice of parents to choose schools, free education and the democratic process.”

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