Saturday 16 December 2017

Taoiseach warned TDs and ministers will be 'crucified' over school bus issue

Independent Alliance minister John Halligan, who has responsibility for school transport. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent Alliance minister John Halligan, who has responsibility for school transport. Photo: Tom Burke
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fine Gael ministers and TDs have hit out at problems in the schools bus network, warning Taoiseach Leo Varadkar they will be "crucified" in September.

A private meeting of the party last night heard that parents in some parts of the country are being forced to hire buses because the State operation is not sufficient.

Minister of State Paul Kehoe said he is aware of a number of cases in Wexford where families have come together to put on a private service.

Fellow Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan said the problems had been in existence since 2010 but the Government had not come to terms with it.

Government sources indicated that there were heated exchanges on the issue.

"People were really angry. There was a sense that it's a problem that affects families in every rural constituency but it's been allowed to fester," one TD told the Irish Independent.

Sources said Mr O'Donovan was "particularly harsh" on the Department of Education, suggesting responsibility for the network should be removed from it.

The Limerick TD said there needed to be a major rethink of how the school bus network operates in rural Ireland.

He noted that in Dublin schoolchildren use buses that are also populated with workers, pensioners and other commuters.

A source said: "Patrick made the point that in some parts of rural Ireland three different buses go on the one road in the same day because there's no joined up thinking.

"Each of the three buses for kids, pensioners and whatever else are being paid for out of the public fund but none of them might be full."

Carlow/Kilkenny TD Pat Deering said TDs faced the prospect of being "crucified" in September if a solution is not found.

Mr Varadkar told his colleagues that he would raise the issue with Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan who has responsibility for school transport.

Last December, controversial plans to introduce smaller school buses were shelved.

Irish Independent

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