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Education Minister Norma Foley accused of breaching ministerial code


Norma Foley

Norma Foley

Norma Foley

EDUCATION Minister Norma Foley has been accused of breaching the ministerial code after she failed to tell the Dáil last week that the Leaving Cert results would be delayed until September 7.

Ms Foley has been asked by the Ceann Comhairle to account for why she did not disclose the delay in issuing results when she was directly asked about it in the Dáil last Thursday - but then confirmed it in a press statement issued by the Department of Education a short time later.

Labour TD Aodhan Ó Ríordáin, who had asked Ms Foley in the Dáil, said the failure to disclose the delay when asked was in breach of the code of conduct for office holders and has formally complained to Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl, asking that the matter be investigated.

“A failure to respond to a direct question by providing the information which the Minister must already have known must, I believe, amount to a breach of the Minister’s obligations to the House,” the Dublin Bay North TD wrote.

“I do believe that the Minister failed in her constitutional duty and her obligations under standing orders to make herself properly accountable to the Dáil.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Ó Fearghaíl said: “On receipt of the complaint the Ceann Comhairle wrote to the Minister seeking her comments and anticipates an early reply.”

A spokesperson for Ms Foley said the Minister had already publicly addressed the issues raised Mr Ó Riordáin and is in ongoing communication with him and other Opposition colleagues.

“The Minister had a detailed briefing with the Opposition Spokespeople, where she set out her determination to make sure that our schools will open in the Autumn and explained some of the steps that are being taken to make that happen.

“She also had detailed conversations with them about how the calculated grades process is working and what is being done to facilitate our Leaving Cert students to access third level education options when grades are published.”

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The spokesperson said these would be the first of a series of briefings in the coming months and the Minister would address “these and other education matters in the Dáil next week”.

The new Fianna Fáil Minister told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last Friday that as a “matter of professionalism and courtesy” she wanted to inform the parents, teachers, students, and school managerial bodies first.

Meanwhile, Ms Foley told a briefing of Opposition spokespeople on Tuesday that there would be clarity on the plans to reopen schools in August and September before July 31. TDs were also told that the Department would centrally procure all protective equipment and screens for schools that will have to enforce social distancing measures.

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said there were “no clear answers” arising from the meeting, while SocDems TD Gary Gannon said: “It’s really difficult to be optimistic about how schools are going to operate with any sense of normality come autumn with such confusion emanating from the department.”

The Irish Independent reported on Tuesday that around €100m in funding will be made available to primary and secondary schools to adapt their buildings for social distancing.

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