Donegal South West Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has expressed his disappointment at the Minister for Education’s decision to back-track on plans for a new school in Gortahork.
Speaking in Seanad Éireann last night Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill said, “The need for a new national school in Gortahork is well documented over the past 10 years. The Department of Education and the Office of Public Works initiated moves to acquire the necessary land. Following a process to locate and identify possible sites for a new school building, one site was chosen which offered the best potential and contracts for the site were signed subject to planning approval.
“A planning application was subsequently submitted to the Council, and both the planning staff and the roads staff of Donegal County Council met with the Department and the OPW to discuss the application. The local authority emphasised that road improvements would have to be carried out for safety reasons if the site was to be considered.
“However I very much regret that no improvements were shown on the plans submitted on behalf of the Department of Education, and subsequently the Council had no choice but to refuse the planning permission.
“The Minister of State at the Department of Education Ciaran Cannon has now regrettably confirmed to me that the Department has pulled its existing contract for the acquisition of this site. The deposit has been returned to the Chief State Solicitor’s office in recent days and the money will now be transferred to the Department.
“The next step in this process will now be reviewed in light of these developments, taking account of the current competing demands on the capital budget of the Department and the increased demands for additional school accommodation.
“This is a row back by the new Minister on internal advice given by Department officials to the former Minister for Education that if planning was refused, that the Department would seek to acquire the additional land needed for improvement safety proposals and that the Department would also seek to renegotiate the original purchase price of the School Site taking current market conditions into account.
“Given that so much work was done to progress the new school building on the proposed site, I believe the Minister must proceed with the acquisition of the identified site, in addition to any additional lands required.”