The Five Year School Building Programme announced recently by Education and Skills Minister Ruairi Quinn has been under heavy criticism this week with many describing the exclusion of Clifden Community School as shocking and anti-rural.
Despite the announcement that a total of 23 new schools, a mix of primary and post-primary, is to be built in Galway over the next five years there has been much disapointment expressed in the Clifden community who have campaigned tirelessly for a much needed new school for more than 20 years.
Local Fine Gael councillor Eileen Mannion has described the omission as a “devastating blow” and that there is a sense of betrayal, especially given past promises. “The fact that Minister Quinn, who has a holiday home in the area, on his visit to the school last August said that he would take a personal interest in the Clifden school project makes it particularly upsetting”.
Cllr Mannion vowed that the campaign to have a new school building in Clifden will continue and that a meeting will be sought with Minister Quinn as matter of urgency to clarify the situation. She called on local representatives such as Labour’s Derek Nolan and Fine Gael’s Brian Walsh and Sean Kyne to give their support and ensure that the students, parents, and teachers get the school they deserve.
Also expressing disappointment about the announcement was Galway West TD Eamon O’Cuiv who explained that the Clifden Community School - which serves students from Renvyle, Letterfrack, Cleggan, Claddaghduff, Clifden, Ballyconneely, Roundstone, Cashel, and Recess - has a number of health and safety issues. He criticised Minister Quinn for omitting the school from the Five Year School Building Programme, adding that it showed anti-rural bias.
Despite welcoming the annoucement that there would be 12 new schools built in the Galway West constitutuency there was not a complete endorsement from Senator Fidelma Healy Eames who also described the absence of the Clifden Community School from the list as dissappointing. Commenting on the matter, Senator Healy Eames said: “I know there has been a lot of anticipation from parents, teaching staff and students for a new school given the condition of the existing school. I will be pursuing progress in this case.”
However, the Galway West senator added that the projects that were given the go-head “will not only have a huge impact on the teachers, pupils, and local communities across Galway that benefit from new and improved school facilities, they will also give a significant boost in terms of job creation”. At least 15,000 direct jobs and 3,000 indirect jobs are expected to be created nationally during the construction phase over the next five years.
Senator Healy Eames vowed that: “Education is being prioritised by this Government. Within extremely limited spending options we are taking the steps to ensure that our children are educated in safe, modern facilities. In recent weeks, funding of €35 million was also announced to put an end to the wasteful policy of housing our pupils in prefabs which was pursued by the Fianna Fáil Government for so many years.”