[Sinn Fein]

22nd January 2003

Fianna Fáil Election Promises ``A Lot Broken, More to Break''

Statement of Seán Crowe, Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Education on Buildings Programme 2003.

Sinn Fein Spokesperson on Education, Seán Crowe TD has condemned the failure of the Department of Education to seriously tackle the scandal of our inadequate primary and secondary schools but stated that the real blame must lie with Minister McCreevy's decision to cut financial support for capital investment in education in December. The amount set aside for school building and refurbishment is a serious reduction on the amount invested last year.

``During the last General Election Fianna Fáil candidates were queuing up to promise communities their schools would be taken care of if a Fianna Fáil government was returned to power. We have seen the results today with schools being turned down, their protests ignored, their hopes shattered by Minister Dempsey.

``This government has fundamentally failed to prioritise school building and tackle the decades of institutionalised neglect. The school-building programme for this year is a mere 7% of the annual education budget. In his address to the INTO conference last year, Michael Woods admitted that many of the State's 3,200 primary schools are unsafe and pose a health and safety risk.

``There are schools in this state dealing with rat infestations, shaky buildings, completely inadequate heat, no security and a host of other difficulties. Every day children, many in deprived working class areas, are forced to attend schools that are far below the minimum standards. 289 primary schools and 85 secondary schools that are at the architectural planning stage have basically been long-fingered and we have no idea when, or if, they will be allowed proceed.

``The Minister had to rob Peter to pay Paul by taking money from the Third Level capital building to hide the true cuts in the school building programme, a decision forced on him by Minister McCreevy's appalling, and frankly mystifying, decision to cut the school building programme by 10% in real terms in the Estimates of last month.

``I have pointed out to the Minister that the cost of the cut he delivered in Corporation Tax for 2003 is more than the entire school-building programme for this year. Minister McCreevy chose to prioritise Big Business over our children.''

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