Deputy Peter Burke, Fine Gael TD for Longford Westmeath, raised the delays involved in Curraghmore NS/Holy Family NS for the third time on the floor of the Dáil with the Minister for Education this week.
Burke, in a passionate and at times high octane speech, stated that an urgent debate was needed again to highlight the project, which he said continued to be under-resourced:
“I have raised a number of debates, dozens of parliamentary questions and attended numerous meetings, as far back as 2008, in relation to Holy Family National School and we received revised completion date for the 9th time this week. The school still remains 82% complete, the site still remains under-resourced and you have sub-contractors now walking off site. This is infuriating for staff, parents and all involved.
“I want the Minister to reflect on our situation. We have 30 staff, 332 pupils and 276 families operating out of a 1942 two-teacher school with no ancillary services in the 21st century. Due to the delays, we now have three campuses and parents driving between all three with the most vulnerable children having the furthest to travel.
“I am demanding clarity and certainty now about when the school can be delivered, and whether the contractor has the capacity to finish the school because we simply cannot go on any longer on this pathway. The 2020 enrollment will be in January in the parish, how can the Principal make decision with any degree of security?
“I want to also put on record the work of the Local Authority who have come in for criticism from a lot of people in recent weeks. From working on this project, the issues lie not with the Local Authority or their staff. The Minister needs to do everything he can to provide a certain date that can and will be adhered to. This is the least of what the staff, pupils, management and parents deserve.
The Minister then updated the house on the project progress, stating there had been an acceleration of work when the new completion date was announced for of the end of October, but this had not been sustained. He said he is not satisfied with the progress of the dispute resolution on site and that he is holding a meeting in the Department of Education this Friday with department officials, the contractor and officials from Westmeath County Council.
“The meeting is to discuss technical issues and also to ascertain why further delays have occurred. I want to thank the patrons and management of Holy Family NS, many of whom I met on site previously, and management in St. Etchen’s and St. Loman’s GAA club, while it is extremely disappointing that these extra contingency arrangements had to be activated. I am hopeful that in the coming days we will have further site information and clarity to update the parents and staff of the school. I am appealing to the contractor to feel the frustration of the community and be honest with all parties. I thank the Deputy for raising this with me again today.
Burke continued his impassioned speech and highlighted further demands from the floor of the Dáil:
“We need absolutely clarity at this meeting on Friday. This week the school was meant to be complete with sign off in October. I drive by the site on a daily basis and it is galling to see it under-resourced. You wouldn’t have enough workers to build a 2,000 square foot house.
The Mullingar TD concluded:
“This is my top priority in politics right now, to get this school delivered. I am appealing for your department to get answers at the meeting”.