Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has said it is deeply worrying that Fine Gael and Labour TDs and Senators in Donegal have voted down motions in the Dáil and Seanad to protect small schools from the prospect of closure.
After Government TDs voted against a Fianna Fáil Dáil Motion condemning cuts to small schools last week, Fianna Fáil moved a motion in the Seanad calling on Senators to condemn the cuts. Government Senators refused to vote in favour of protecting small schools in Donegal and across the country.
Senator Ó Domhnaill said: “It is estimated that 101 out of 175 of the primary schools in Co Donegal will be hit with cuts under the Government’s plan. At best, they face losing a teacher or support staff and at worst they face closure.
“The Protestant and Catholic Churches locally have issues a joint statement expressing serious concern about the damaging consequences of this Government policy on primary schools across Donegal. They have pointed out that 27 out of the 31 protestant schools will be severely affected by these cuts. They have also pointed this will undo all of the good work carried out over the last two decades to provide better resources to primary schools and enhance the learning environment for our children.
“The blunt approach the Government is taking with this is deeply worrying. They are going on numbers alone, and wielding an axe to any school with less than 86 pupils. They are refusing to take into consideration the geography of an area or the particular ethos of a school. In Co Donegal, we have a large rural area, with primary schools often sparsely located. It is not possible to merge these schools with others that are in villages far away, particularly at a time when the Government is also cutting State supports for school transport.
“We also have a higher number of protest schools and Gaeltacht schools in Co Donegal, which are facing a disproportionate level of the cuts. We must protect the particular ethos of these schools and their contribution to the community. We can’t force them to amalgamate with larger schools that are completely different.
“The impact on communities of losing their local school would be enormous. The impact on children of increasing class sizes or forcing them to move to a different school with a completely different ethos would also be enormous.
“I cannot understand how Fine Gael and Labour TDs and Senators can justify supporting this policy. Instead of standing up in the Seanad this week and representing the wishes of their communities, they voted not to protect their local schools. This is deeply disappointing and raises concerns about what else is coming down the road.”