Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Proposal for primary school exams should be dumped

20 July, 2004

Speaking at the Patrick MacGill summer School, in Glenties, Co. Donegal, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin has sharply criticised the proposal from the Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey for state examinations in primary schools. He said it bore all the hallmarks of a Minister "whose brainwaves inevitably go wrong".

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "The Minister for Education and Science Noel Dempsey's proposal for compulsory State testing of 7 and 11 year old children in our primary schools is a very retrograde step which would seriously damage the positive ethos of the primary system. State exams in national schools would infect them with the pressurised exam-oriented ethos of the post-primary sector.

"Where did this proposal come from? It was announced during the Dáil recess. There was no Government white paper, no green paper, no promised legislation, no consultation. This proposal bears all the hallmarks of a brainwave from a Minister prone to brainwaves that inevitably go wrong. He was, after all, the originator of the fundamentally flawed electronic voting system. The proposal for exams at primary level should be dumped without further ado."

Deputy Ó Caoláin, speaking on the theme 'TDs - messengers or legislators', said a factor which works against effective law making is the lack of cohesion and piecemeal approach of Government. Each Minister acts independently in his or her own domain.

He said, "Since I was first elected in 1997 I have seen the begrudging approach of two Fianna Fáil/PD administrations to opposition participation in law making. Constructive opposition amendments are rarely adopted. More and more legislation is pushed through with the aid of the guillotine. Promised legislation is repeatedly delayed while reactionary legislation - such as the citizenship referendum - is sprung upon us. In order to facilitate the bureaucratic changes in the health services which the Government wants to implement, a whole range of health-related bills have been postponed, some of them without a promised publication date. All of this makes the job of opposition much more difficult but also more vital in holding the government to account."

Deputy Ó Caoláin strongly refuted recent criticism of his party's performance in the Dáil from some Labour Party spokespeople:

"Some have questioned our diligence in the Dáil. Regrettably that charge has come from the Labour Party, and in the context of a debate focusing on the role of TDs I want to absolutely refute that. Each of our five TDs has a policy portfolio covering the areas of responsibility of three or four Ministers. The

record shows their diligence in Committees and in the Dáil chamber on all legislation, questioning ministers and putting forward our distinctive and

radical policies. Agree with them or disagree with them on policy matters, I challenge anyone to question the hard work and the effectiveness of the Sinn

Féin representatives in the Oireachtas."

The Sinn Féin Dáil leader said that it was "ironic" that the most significant change in Dáil procedure in recent years was when "the Labour Party did a deal

with the Government to allow the Taoiseach to absent himself from the Dail for most of Wednesday and all of Thursday." ENDS

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