Coughlan accused of 'cynical' new plans for 400 school repairs
EDUCATION Minister Mary Coughlan was accused last night of a "cynical political exercise" by announcing nearly 400 school building projects.
The announcement means that 10pc of the country's 4,000 schools will get either an extension, refurbishment or completely new school buildings over the next few years.
Nearly 100 projects are appearing for the first time -- the others had been named previously and are at different stages of the planning process.
Included in the list for the first time is Gaelscoil Barra in Cabra, Dublin which has been waiting 15 years for a new school building.
But last night principal Sean O Donaile said he would not believe anything until he saw bricks and mortar to replace the totally unsuitable and unhealthy pre-fabs.
The Gaelscoil is one of 102 projects where briefs will be formulated this year and the process of appointing a design team will commence. Around half of the schools have appeared on the list for the first time.
They include a new school for Carrabane, Athenry, Co Galway, a new school for Scoil Naomh Padraig, Celbridge, Co Kildare, a dozen new schools or extensions of refurbishments in Co Cork and an extension of the Educate Together school in Skerries, Co Dublin.
The Tanaiste also announced that 42 schools could progress to planning permission with a view to preparing tender documents for 2011 or 2012.
The remainder will go to tender this year, award contracts, continue with building or progress through the system, she said.
She added that nine new post-primary schools would open between 2012 and 2016.
But Labour education spokesman Ruairi Quinn said the announcement represented the first cynical campaign promise in an election that had not even been called yet.
"The days of making such grandiose promises to hundreds of communities around the country, in the run-up to an election, is the politics of yesteryear, and should, like the political culture of a morally bankrupt Fianna Fail, be consigned to the dustbin of history," he said.
But a spokesman for the minister denied that the announcement was related to recent political developments and said that she had fully intended announcing her school building programme in January.
"It is testament to the wide-ranging and progressive nature of the programme that she has outlined that political opponents are attempting to dampen the enthusiasm with which this announcement is being greeted across the country," the spokesman said.
"It represents a considerable investment in education at a time when falling construction prices mean that a great deal more can be achieved for less," he added.