Monday 21 May 2018

Halligan accused of naivety in approach to the vexed question of school transport

Junior minister John Halligan. Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
Junior minister John Halligan. Pic Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Anne Marie Walsh

Junior Minister John Halligan has been described as "naive" in his approach to the school transport scheme, as well as his more localised political battle in Waterford.

He got off to a shaky start in overseeing the school bus scheme by making a pledge that was impossible to keep, it has been claimed.

A source close to the organisation of the scheme said it was felt that Mr Halligan did not have a clear understanding of how the scheme operated. He had said no child should lose a concessionary ticket while a departmental value-for-money review was under way.

But the source pointed out that the rules of the scheme meant that eligible students get first shout on bus places.

Children who do not meet these criteria, who are generally not attending their nearest school, get any seats that are left.

As a result, there could be no guarantee that children with concessionary tickets could hold onto their seat as the number of tickets available to them varies from year to year.

Read more: Fianna Fáil turns up pressure on Halligan to quit the Government

But in relation to his role in the increase in apprenticeship places, State training body Solas praised the minister's involvement and said he had had early and frequent engagement with key officials.

"He has met us several times around this programme of work," said a spokesperson.

Mr Halligan's role as Minister of State for Training and Skills was put into sharp focus following comments by Taoiseach Enda Kenny during a radio interview yesterday. Mr Kenny said the Government could not have a situation where every week somebody was holding it to ransom.

Newstalk presenter Pat Kenny introduced the subject of Mr Halligan to the Taoiseach by referring to King Henry II's famous quote on Thomas Becket: "Rid me of this turbulent priest."

In response, Mr Kenny said: "John Halligan has 11 responsibilities at national level, dealing with the doubling of apprenticeships, the school transport scheme, to research and development."

He pointedly added: "I would like to hear him devote himself to those responsibilities."

Irish Independent

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