Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, has slammed Government for putting on hold long-awaited school construction projects, particularly in light of billions of euros in its “rainy day fund”.
Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí in Donegal town, a project that was shovel-ready, is one of 58 school building projects across the country – including more than a dozen in Donegal – affected by the recent Department decision.
Scoil Niall Mór in Killybegs, which has been waiting in an earlier stage of project development, is also affected by the Department’s decision to put school construction projects on hold.
There are also school projects at different stages affected in Letterkenny, Moville, Falcarragh, Gortahork, Kilmacrennan, St Johnston, Illistrin, Milford, Raphoe and Buncrana, including several that were ready to start construction.
It was reported last month that the State had transferred €4 billion into the rainy-day fund, bringing the total balance of the fund to €6 billion, but Deputy Pringle has hit out at the government for ‘putting billions into a rainy-day fund’.
“Surely they could have taken €100 million out of that to keep these projects going.”
Deputy Pringle had submitted parliamentary questions to the Minister for Education, asking when the Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí project would be completed, and the children moved into the new building from the prefabs which currently make up the school. The school was established in 1999 in prefabs.
As recently as October of 2022, the Minister responded that subject to no issues arising, it was envisaged that works could commence on site in the first quarter of this year, 2023, with an estimated completion timeframe of 23 months.
However, earlier this year, in response to further questioning from Deputy Pringle, the Minister said the Department will be assessing overall requirements for 2023 and would update individual schools of same.
Deputy Pringle said: “These schools have been going through this process for years. This is not right. The school community at Gaelscoil na gCeithre Máistrí was expecting to see builders on site, not an email telling them the project was on hold.
“The point is the money is there. The rainy-day fund has been established. Why is there money in a rainy-day fund when these necessary structural developments have been put on hold?” he said.