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Education Department's cost-cutting disturbing and unacceptable - Crowe

11 August, 2005

Sinn  Féin Education and Transport spokesperson Seán Crowe TD has described
revelations  today  that  the Department of Education and Science have been
prioritising  cost over safety since 2002 as “disturbing and unacceptable.”
Deputy  Crowe  also  raised  concerns  at some of the proposed measures the
Minister has been considering to reduce costs.

Speaking  today  he  said,  “The  revelations  in  the media today that the
Department of Education and Science have been prioritising cost over safety
as  far  back  as  2002  are  disturbing  and  unacceptable.   The Minister
considered  seat belts unnecessary and saw nothing wrong with the so-called
three for two rule.  This calls into question the veracity of Minister Síle
Devalera’s  citing  of  logistical  problems,  such  as  the  difficulty of
designing  suitable  seat belts for four to seventeen year olds, as being a
factor  whilst  answering  questions  in the Dáil on 24/5/2005.    When one
weighs  this  up against the fact that 16 pupils have been killed on school
buses  in  the  last decade what emerges is a picture of neglect.  Even now
the  Minister could act to ensure students will be able to travel safely to
school when the new term starts, but yet again it seems that cost will take
precedence  over  safety.  It has now emerged that when the new term starts
in  three  weeks  not  enough  buses will be available forcing thousands of
pupils  to  travel  under the now infamous three for two system.  As I have
said  previously  there  will now be an attempt to deny pupils transport on
the  basis  of catchment areas.  The Minister’s response to overcrowding is
not  to  provide  more  buses  it would seem, but rather to deny students a
place on the bus.

“I would also be gravely concerned at some of the measures the Minister has
been  considering  to  reduce  costs.  She has actually being talking about
getting  rid  of  the  free  tickets  for  children of medical cardholders.
Considering the criterion for qualifying for the medical card this proposal
would  increase  hardship  for  families  that  are  already  hard pressed.
Cutting  back the special needs services and increasing the ticket price by
30%  are  in  the  same vein.  I call on Education Minister Mary Hanafin to
immediately  clarify  her intentions.  What is required of the Minister now
is  an  unequivocal  declaration that safety and demand come before money.”

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