Pupils withdrawn from school over 10-year wait for toilets
Around 125 pupils were withdrawn from a school yesterday in protest over the Government's failure to provide a new building for a school that has not been refurbished since 1909.
Parents of children attending Kilfinane National School in Co Limerick withdrew their children following an announcement by the Minister for Education that the project would not be funded this year due to departmental overspending.
The building is more than 100 years old, has only outside toilet facilities and was forced to close three years ago due to a rat infestation.
Hopes were high that the construction of a new building, for which tenders have already been received, would begin over the summer, but, following a recent visit to the school, Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe told parents that funding for the new school would not be available this year.
Minister O'Keeffe criticised the strike action being taken by the parents at the school and asked that they have "patience and show restraint".
"All I'm asking for is a small bit of patience to see exactly what funding is there, to see how we can move the building programme forward," he said.
"I'm not going to make ad hoc decisions without knowing exactly where I am in relation to the actual funds that are available to me," he added.
According to the minister, Kilfinane is a "priority project" and he insisted his department would move as soon as he was certain the funds were available for the new building project.
Following Mr O'Keeffe's visit to the area, the parents council unanimously agreed to take their children home from school at 10.45am yesterday morning for a "toilet-break" and kept them from school for the rest of the day.
"We are no longer happy with the lip service the Government has been paying to us for the past decade," said Sonia Sheehan, a spokeswoman for the parents council.
"We have done everything by the book so far. We have written the letters, filled out the applications, made the phone calls but enough is enough and it's about time the minister and his government was shamed into providing indoor toilet facilities for our children and proper educational facilities," she added.
In a statement released yesterday, the INTO's president Declan Kelleher said he fully supported the parents in their protest.
"Even though there is a downturn in the economy it is disgraceful that the children of Kilfinane National School have to suffer these draconian conditions.
"The parents and children have been patient for too long and its time the government addressed the need to refurbish this dilapidated school building," he said.
"No child should have to endure such sub-standard conditions as is being experienced by the children of Kilfinane.