Wednesday 15 August 2018

More money is needed to build schools, Bruton warned

Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne. Photo: Tom Burke
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The Government must increase funding for school building, according to Fianna Fail.

The party's education spokesman Thomas Byrne was speaking following the announcement of the establishment of 42 start-up schools over the next four years to deal with rising population growth.

While there was much welcome for the announcement, it sparked concern about how the budget can stretch to cover 42 more schools on top of the current lengthy waiting lists for major building works.

Green Party TD Catherine Martin said she was delighted at the promise of four new schools in Rathdown, but said it was "incredibly ambitious" when the Government had been unable to provide a permanent building for the Ballinteer Educate Together primary school that opened in 2012.

While the provision of permanent buildings for the 42 schools scheduled to open between 2019 and 2022 could take years, Mr Byrne said there would be site acquisition costs in the short term.

He said Education Minister Richard Bruton "clearly needs additional funding to deliver on the commitments he has made and this is something he needs to raise with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform".

Mr Byrne said it was a damning indictment of Department of Education forecasts that 42 new schools were announced in one day, only two years after the publication of a five-year plan for school building.

"That plan is now completely out of date," said Mr Byrne.

A Government source said any party that wanted to increase capital spending in one department needed to indicate the department from which they would take money. They added: "Otherwise they are playing fast and loose with fiscal rules."

Meanwhile, Labour education spokesperson Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin turned on Fianna Fáil, saying its "apparent concern was galling to say the least, as they're happy to claim credit for positive budgetary measures on the one hand, but also claim a lack of influence when it suits".

He said apparent budgetary choices between existing refurbishment projects and new school announcements were "the inevitable consequence of the tax cut consensus of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael".

A Department of Education spokesperson said that there had been an ongoing increase in the building budget, which would enable provision to be continued for demographics while also enabling a refocusing towards refurbishment projects.

They said: "In the context of a rapidly growing population, the focus on the delivery of additional school places will remain a priority in the short to medium term, and from 2021 onwards a major refurbishment programme will commence in schools."

Irish Independent

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