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School building announcement completely inadequate - Doherty

29 September, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has described the announcement of a school building programme by Minister Batt O'Keeffe as completely inadequate.

Speaking today Senator Doherty said almost one in every three schools in the state is on the school building list and awaiting approval for their projects.

He said, "At one time it was the practice of the Minister for Education to publish a list of all schools on the school building programme with priority ratings and indicative dates of construction. This system provided a degree of transparency to the process and allowed schools to plan ahead with some sort of awareness of how long they had to wait for building to commence.

"However unfortunately the Minister's predecessor Mary Hanafin abandoned this practice and Batt O'Keeffe has refused to re-introduce it since taking over the post.

"The school build programme which he has introduced today is completely inadequate. Only twenty-five schools are to benefit from the announcement which means hundreds of schools will be disappointed. 1 in 3 of our 4,000 schools have applied for a new school or much needed building works on there existing school.

"This announcement also comes on the back of the revelation that many schools that have been given approval for extensions cannot proceed to construction because the funds provided only cover a fraction of the actual cost making a mockery of Government media announcements on funding for schools.

"It is completely unacceptable that our children are to continue being taught in deplorable accommodation and conditions throughout the state without any indication of when proper school buildings will be provided.

"Our children are being taught in run-down prefabs, sitting three to a seat or in some cases on the floor. Many sit shivering in their desks in freezing cold prefabs and risk picking up a serious disease from rat-infested playgrounds.

"The Minister must publish a full list of all schools on the school building programme with priority ratings and indicative dates of construction. The current economic climate cannot be used as an excuse to put this off.

"Sinn Féin has been calling for significant investment in education as part of a long term economic strategy to build the knowledge based economy that we so often talk about. If we have to borrow money for capital investment then so be it." ENDS

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