Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has raised concerns about the government’s refusal to commit to the future of two special pre-schools in Donegal.
Senator Ó Domhnaill questioned the Health Minister James Reilly about the future of St Agnes’s Specialist Pre-School and Ballaghderg Specialist Pre-School, and described the Minister’s response as ‘extremely worrying’.
“Minister Reilly’s reply confirms the worst fears of parents and teachers in these two schools. It is clear that the government has no intention to support either school into the future,” the Donegal Senator said.
In response to Senator Ó Domhnaill’s questions, Minister Reilly said:
“There are currently two specialised pre-schools in Co. Donegal: St. Agnes pre-school in Donegal town and Ballaghderg pre-school in Letterkenny. The HSE has assured me that it has no immediate plans to close Ballaghderg pre-school and this pre-school will continue to deliver services until 2015. The position in respect of St. Agnes pre-school in Donegal town is that it will close at the end of 2014.”
Senator Ó Domhnaill continued, “Essentially, the Minister is saying that St Agnes will close at the end of next year while Ballaghderg will lose State support after 2015. It’s clear that it is Fine Gael policy to shut these Donegal schools down.
“Once again this amounts to the direct targeting of children with special needs, who have been forced to bear an unreasonable level of cuts over the past two years. Children with intellectual disabilities have suffered the most, with their entitlements already cut by the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton. And now here in Donegal, it seems the government intends to shut down two specialist schools for young children with special needs.
“Early intervention in the treatment and education of children with intellectual disabilities is crucial. The benefit of getting specialised care in the early years cannot be underestimated. I believe there is no excuse for such a radical downscaling of these services in Donegal.
“I am urging the Health Minister James Reilly to come and visit these schools and see for himself the excellent service they provide and the enormous difference their work makes. It seems to me that this government continually makes decisions that have a huge impact on rural communities in particular, without any knowledge or consideration of the devastating impact these decisions can have.”