Fianna Fáil Education Spokesperson Thomas Byrne has said that the Minor Works Scheme for schools will be placed on a statutory basis under a future Fianna Fáil-led government.

Deputy Byrne was commenting after many school principals contacted him over the past number of weeks to express their concern and worry about the potential lack of a scheme in 2018.

“Before Christmas, Minister Bruton cast doubt on the Government providing a Minor Works Grant Scheme this year. Traditionally, the Department of Education allocates approximately €30 million every year to this scheme.

“This was a bombshell for schools and boards of management. Many had expected to receive some funding this year, and had budgeted accordingly. Only once previously has the Government decided not to pay this grant to schools.

“This has caused great stress and anxiety for school principals. Voluntary parents association and boards of managements must now increase their fundraising in order to meet this expected shortfall.

“Unfortunately, the Minister can pick and choose if and when to award it, but schools have become dependent on it to balance their books.

“Let me be clear – this should not be treated as a discretionary grant but, rather, money on which schools have come to depend on every year to do necessary minor works and without which they could not function.

“Fianna Fáil will shortly put forward legislation to move the Minor Works Grant Scheme to a statutory basis with clearly defined timelines to ensure that schools are not left in the lurch and at the mercy of the Minister of the day.

“We will seek to have our proposals passed by the Oireachtas as soon as possible. However, if the Government blocks us – we are committing to implementing our proposals as part of the next Fianna Fáil government,” concluded Byrne.