Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames’ criticism of the Government’s policy on small rural schools “as poorly thought out and detrimental to the survival of rural areas” has been hailed as “courageous” by Éamon Ó Cuiv.
Sen Healy Eames said recently that the policy being pursued by Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, which could lead to some schools closing and being forced to amalgamate with others, “will deconstruct communities and parishes”. She also said it was “social engineering of the worst kind”.
“Displacing and moving rural pupils means extra classrooms will be needed in villages and sub-urban areas, while space continues to exist in their own rural schools,” she said. “Children as young as four years of age will have to be bussed or driven long distances. The policy just doesn’t add up.”
She said there are better approaches to these issues and has “respectfully asked Minister Quinn to review his policy”.
Sen Healy Eames’ stance has been welcomed by Fianna Fáil Galway West TD Éamon Ó Cuív who said his constituency rival has “spoken for many Fine Gael grass-roots supporters” on this issue. He has also called on Galway’s Fine Gael TDs Seán Kyne, Brian Walsh, and Paul Connaughton, and Minister of State Ciarán Cannon to give her call their “full support”.
“If all the Fine Gael Oireachtas members in County Galway follow her example,” said Dep Ó Cuív, “they can create a snowball of support for her stand amongst Fine Gael Oireachtas members around the country thus forcing a reversal of this policy.”
He added: “We are already in Sen Healy Eames’ debt for the strong stand she has taken on this issue but we will be doubly indebted to her if she can now pull the Taoiseach and the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party with her on this issue