Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has said he is extremely disappointed by a lack of clarity from the government on the delay to providing new accommodation for Scoil Bhride, Edenderry and Gaelscoil Eadon Doire. Deputy Cowen raised the matter in the Dáil yesterday with the Minister for State at the Department of Education.
Deputy Cowen said there is a great sense of “disappointment, frustration and despair evident among the staff, pupils and parents and the extended community of Edenderry with regard to Scoil Bhríde and Gaelscoil Éadan Doire. Such emotions result from recent contact made by the Department to the two principals concerned. They were asked by the Department to apply for increased temporary accommodation to meet their enrolment needs in September 2013.
“Such requests are normally sought and made in January of the preceding year, at the latest. Even more alarming and galling, however, is that these schools had been included in the rapid delivery programme in December 2011. In the first instance, they followed applications highlighting the request for their establishment to meet the demand arising from population growth in Edenderry. Subsequently, Scoil Bhríde was established in 2007 and located on temporary accommodation in the grounds of Edenderry GAA club. The school’s pupil numbers have grown annually to a current total of 333, with 70 new pupils enrolled for September 2013. In addition to the mainstream school, there are four autistic spectrum disorder, or ASD, special classes. The new school was designed to accommodate two more ASD classes with waiting lists already in place for them.
Deputy Cowen continued: “Gaelscoil Éadan Doire was founded in 2008 and operates in an old factory which is both dangerous and unhealthy. Many classrooms have no windows and no yard outside. The space available cannot be further partitioned. The staff are struggling on a daily basis to keep the school open.
“The beauty of these projects was, and is, that they are to be built on one site. The site was purchased by the State and appropriately zoned by Offaly County Council. It was to be serviced by a new link road, which was agreed in conjunction with the locality and the local authority.
Deputy Cowen asked “why have the Minister and the Minister of State turned their backs on these schools, given the commitments, temporary rental accommodation costs, poor conditions and bona fide efforts by school management?”
Minister of State Ciaran Cannon acknowledged that “the community badly needs this investment. The delivery of the schools will happen, albeit not within the original timeframe envisaged, but certainly as soon as is physically possible.”
Deputy Cowen said: “What I cannot understand, however, is why all of a sudden the Minister of State is saying it will be built within the five-year programme. It is far removed from the commitments that he, his party and the Government made to the people of that town when they said it would be up and running in September this year. That is far removed from the commitments the principals made to the staff, the community and parents when they referred to the enrolment prospects for September 2013. He asked the principals, boards of management, the local authority and the community to live up to his expectations. They did so but the Minister of State should now live up to theirs.”