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Norris gobsmacked over loss of plastering course

IT smacks of unparliamentary language, but Senator David Norris has only one word for the person who wants to move a plastering apprenticeship course out of Dublin.

"Whatever gobshite made this suggestion appears to be blithely unaware that Dublin plaster work, particularly from the 18th century, is regarded as one of the jewels of European architectural heritage," said Georgian Dublin's most passionate champion. An 83pc fall-off in apprentice numbers has prompted plans for a rationalisation of courses between different institutes of technology.

The proposals include phasing out plastering courses in Dublin Institute of Technology by 2014, with those programmes continuing in the institutes in Cork and Athlone.

The idea, from the Higher Education Authority (HEA), has caused consternation at DIT, the oldest provider of plastering courses in the country, going back over 50 years.

The HEA defends the move on the basis of lack of demand, but DIT has challenged the thinking, and not least a lack of logic, in taking plastering out of DIT while brickwork is to remain.

Senator Norris said it did not make sense to remove plasterwork training from Dublin, with its concentration of Georgian buildings in constant need of renovation and repair.

He has written to DIT president Professor Brian Norton expressing his concern and what "gobshite" could have made such a decision.

"Please tell me this is not happening," he pleaded in the letter, saying the DIT courses had a very high reputation.

Of the three lecturers at the college, one obtained a gold medal for plastering at the Skill Olympics, another is doing a doctorate at Trinity College and the third was on loan from the Office of Public Works.

Senator Norris could not understand why Dublin should lose out while the course continued in Cork and Athlone, the latter being involved in this area only for the past four years, he said

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The senator also raised the matter in the Seanad chamber, which he describes as "a masterpiece of the art of plasterwork perfected by Michael Stapleton and his school".

Professor Norton, meanwhile, said it was important to keep the skill in Dublin for the refurbishment of Georgian buildings, which were a distinguishing feature of the city.

Discussions are continuing between the HEA and the institutes about the proposed change, which is, in part, meant to free up space for growing numbers of third-level students.

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