The decision to omit an extension to a Gaelscoil in Knocknacarra from the five-year school building programme has been branded “entirely unacceptable” by a Government TD.
Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh said he was “dumbfounded” by the omission of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh from the list of 275 projects nationally and he has demanded that the decision be reversed.
“Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh already has full planning permission and has progressed through all of the necessary stages prior to construction, and its omission from the five-year plan is entirely unacceptable,” said Dep Walsh.
The building programme did include reference to a new school for Galway city, which is understood to be another Irish-medium primary school in the Knocknacarra area. Applications for the patronage of the proposed school have been received by the Department from Educate Together, City of Galway VEC, Lifeways Ireland Ltd, and An Foras Pátrúnachta.
As part of the application process, prospective patrons were asked to provide evidence of parental demand for the school and analysis of the data suggests that is a stronger demand for an Irish-medium school.
However Dep Walsh said that “under no circumstances” should the development of a new school proceed until the needs of existing primary schools in the area were addressed. He pointed out that half of the pupils at Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh are currently in prefab accommodation.
The Department of Education believes a new school is needed to cater for an anticipated increase in the population west of the city in the coming years. However Dep Walsh said the progression of this project while eight classrooms at Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh remained in temporary accommodation would be “unacceptable” and the decision “must be immediately reviewed”.
The new building programme however will see 23 new school projects begin in Galway city and county over the next five years.
New primary schools in the city, Castlegar, Tuam, Athenry, Loughrea, Oughterard, Oranmore, Claregalway, and An Spidéal are included in the list. Work on a new secondary school in Athenry, a new school for Coláiste na Coiribe as well as extensions to many other schools will also get underway.
The programme has been welcomed by Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan who said it was “great news for Galway”. However he added that it is “very unfortunate that every school project couldn’t go ahead”.
“There is a very limited budget and resources have been targeted to providing new places where demographics show there is an urgent need,” he said. “I will be pressing the Minister to expand the scheme he announced last month to fund the replacement of prefabs with permanent structures. This scheme could greatly complement the building programme.”