'No school places' in Education Minister's constituency
HUGE numbers of children cannot find places in national schools in Education Minister Ruairi Quinn's own constituency, a local election candidate claims.
Mr Quinn last week faced accusations of sexism over his comments at the heated teachers' conferences about the need to increase the standard of maths among primary school teachers and the large number of women working in the profession.
But families in his own backyard are more concerned about getting their children into national schools than the quality of maths being taught.
Mr Quinn was recently forced to make funding available for 140 more junior infant places in a bid to stem the school crisis in his Dublin South East constituency.
However, Fianna Fail local election candidate Lorraine Clifford claims this is "just a drop in the ocean" compared to the number of places needed.
Ms Clifford, who lives in the area, said parents are "in tears" because they are unable to get their children into primary schools for the coming year.
She told the Sunday Independent: "There are hundreds of children who have no school places to go to next year.
"It is something the department should have been aware of for a long number of years. This year is particularly bad but it has been a problem for a number of years. The minister is based in this constituency so he should know all about it."
The issue is especially pertinent for Ms Clifford, who is expecting her first child with her husband, political journalist John Lee.
"It has really brought it home for me," she said.
"People are really struggling and I know people have this notion about people in Dublin 4 being very well off but a lot of the young families are struggling."
A Department of Education spokeswoman said the minister was aware of the problem in his constituency and recently moved to address the lack of places.
"Obviously it is a big issue having sufficient primary school places to meet the demand and it is something that has been brought to the minister's attention," the spokeswoman said.
"The department has been working very closely with patron bodies and schools in the locality to make sure every child has a place in September."
Five new primary school classes for 140 students were announced before Easter and teachers in the schools have been asked to contact parents on waiting lists and inform them of the increased availability of places.
The classes are in the new Shelly Banks Educate Together National School, St Brigid's primary school in Ballsbridge and St Mary's national school in Donnybrook.
Mr Quinn sparked anger among teachers last week when he announced plans to make higher level maths compulsory for primary school teachers while also highlighting the high percentage of women working in the sector.
His address to the Irish National Teachers Organisation annual conference descended into chaos as the mostly female audience jeered and shouted at the minister.
Mr Quinn later clarified his remarks and said he meant to "compliment" teachers, who realised they did not need higher level maths to become primary level school teachers.