[Sinn Fein]

30th March 2003

Sinn Fein Ard Fheis 2003

Cllr. Brian Stanley (Portlaoise), speaking on the education section

I am supporting motion 57 which is calling for the adoption of our new policy document `Educate that you may be free' and motion f which calls for greater resources for the provision of proper buildings for Gael Scoileanna.

The policy document sets out a clear vision to work towards, to improve the education system in this country. It lists as its first aim that education should be ``an instrument of progress for all, not a means of reproducing inequalities'' and the need for it to be ``based on the principals of social justice, equality and respect for diversity''.

It also sets out practical short-term objectives to improve primary, post primary and third level education, such as the upgrading of substandard schools and rationalising the curriculum at second level.

The reality is that in my own town Portlaoise and right across the country, the signs Of Fianna Fail and the PDs broken promises are all too apparent, in the form of dilapidated school buildings and prefab that are falling to pieces.

In Portlaoise the situation has reached crisis point with special resource teachers having to teach in cloakrooms, schools unable to take any more enrolments due to overcrowding and a absence of any commitment from the Department of Education to even provide prefabs. The local Gael Scoil which is in rented prefabs on a rented site, has to move from its existing location within the next few months. They are forced to beg the money from the Department to move to another rented site.

And this is how the Government deal with the need for new schools, they pay huge leases for rented sites on which to put rented prefabs, which I am informed cost over ¤800 for each classroom per month or almost ¤10.000 per annum. This goes on for years, with millions paid to companies that rent out these temporary buildings. There would appear to be a complete lack of any long term planning.

We should be up front about how we could pay for the new schools that are needed. So called public private partnerships, which are little more than hire purchase schemes that will crucify the ordinary taxpayer with repayments while allowing rich investors to evade tax could be used. We could do like some other parties and simply demand new schools but fail to spell out where the money would come from.

This state cannot have proper public services without paying for them and that does not mean increasing the burden on those taxpayers earning low to middle incomes. To find the funds we must, restore capital gains tax to 40%, Retain corporation tax at 16% with higher levels for financial institutions and introduce a new tax band for those on incomes over ¤100.000 per annum. And we must also stop the Government wasting our money on jets and new meres, which are little more than toys to impress the elite of Europe''.

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