[Sinn Fein]

20th November 2002

Finance Minister like a bully who only picks on the smaller - Sinn Fein

Full text of the remarks of Deputy Seán Crowe in the Dáil today on the Book of Estimates and specifically the education cutbacks

Deputy Crowe said:

``When the Minister was announcing these Estimates last Thursday, the roof fell in on a school in my constituency, St. Killian's in Kingswood. I have with me a number of letters from schoolchildren who have written to me, as they have to other TDs. They are basically looking for repairs to be done to their schools or schools to be replaced.

``Many TDs would say this is no major issue, that they have the same problems in their own areas. What I suggest we do, however, is actually send these letters on to Charlie McCreevy because it is he who is going to stop these young children from getting repairs done to their schools. He can tell nine-year-old Amy Lawrence why her class has to put up with an asbestos roof that leaks every time it rains. Christopher Byrne wants to know why there is no provision for indoor PE facilities so he can learn to play rugby because he cannot go out to play when it rains. Laura O'Loughlin in fifth class wants gates in her school to prevent stray dogs entering and fouling the schoolyard. David Dillon, aged 10, admits he may not be an expert on these matters but believes that his classroom's leaking metal roof, damaged windows, graffittied walls and profusion of vermin suggest that his school is in desperate need of repair. Sean Fitzpatrick wonders why politicians can bring relative peace to the North but cannot make a school a safer and nicer place.

``Other schools in the State have their problems, and I could go through a whole list of them. The reality is that the Minister is cutting back on repairs to schools and on the building programme. In an address to the INTO, the Minister for Education and Science suggested that 3,200 primary schools were unsafe and posed a health and safety risk. At least he was honest about it. The Minister for Finance is saying that the cutbacks he is proposing are not going to damage anybody or have a major affect on people's lives. Any child in a schoolyard will tell you that a bully only picks on those who are smaller. It is clear the people being picked on will be the most vulnerable sections of our society.

``Other speakers have talked about cuts in community employment schemes. I was at a meeting of a scheme last night. I was told about how there were 15 people on the scheme in the community centre 18 months ago. In January 2003 there will only be two people on the scheme. The reality is that this centre will close.

``It is a centre that has everything from FÁS schemes to child minding services.

``A baby nurse comes in and various other services are provided.

``Ask any TD or anybody up there in the gallery and they will tell you that people are going to be devastated by these cutbacks. What we are seeing - and James Connolly's statue is just behind me - is an example of ruling by fooling.

``The Government fooled the electorate, claiming that there were not going to be cuts. Then we were told that they were not cuts, simply adjustments. Now we are told this is not going to have any major affect. The reality, however, is that the people who are going to be most affected are the most vulnerable sectors. The rich will not be asked to tighten their belts. It is clear from the Estimates and previous Budgets that the rich are going to get richer and that the poor are going to have to fend for themselves. This Budget is skewed towards the people that are well off, and those people will not be affected by these cuts. The marginalised, the poor, the disabled and the elderly are unfortunately the ones who are going to suffer from the cuts outlined in these Estimates.''

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