Donegal Deputy Joe McHugh has warned that Donegal’s young construction workers could move to Australia if school building projects stay ‘paused’.
School bodies in Donegal and across the country have been frustrated by the decision to put on hold the construction of the school buildings because of funding pressures. High construction inflation, the increasing prevalence of autism and need for special needs classes and the need for extra capacity for Ukrainian pupils, are eating into the budget allocation for 2023.
Donegal Deputy Joe McHugh told Minister of State Anne Rabbitte that there is a major issue with the Department of Education regarding capital funding.
Deputy McHugh said: “My major concern is that if we stall 58 to 60 of the projects that are ready to go to tender or ready to go to construction, it will stall the system, planning will run out and we will end up with a situation where redesign will have to happen and it will cost more in the long run.”
He called for sustainability within the Department because contractors need sustainability. Schools like Scoil Íosagáin in Buncrana have suffered because the contractor who was awarded the contract was unable to take it on because of escalating costs.
“Young construction workers in Galway and Donegal are making decisions. They might decide to go to Australia if we do not have long-term security in building.
“We need to re-instill confidence within the system with regard to schools like Four Masters High School that is ready to sign contracts, Moville Community College that was ready to sign documents three weeks ago, and St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny that was ready to go to tender to ensure these projects go ahead.”
Minister Rabbitte said that the Taoiseach has said there would collective effort to go to the Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform to seek additional funding to ensure stability and confidence within the schools and for the builders who tendered on those projects.
Deputy McHugh responded to say: “I am glad to hear the Minister of State’s words today that there is a collective solidarity around this issue at Cabinet and around Government. School communities have been patient, in particular those schools with projects that have been waiting for the green light to be switched on.”
Deputy McHugh read the following projects into the Dáil record, saying: “I mention these because if we stop any form of funding in that current system, we will lose out on all of the work that has gone in so far and all of the taxpayers’ money that has gone into investment, design teams, architects, quantity surveying and all of that work. If we stop that, we are back to duplicating this work and it will cost in the long run.”
- Gaelscoil Na gCeithre Máistrí in Donegal town is ready to start construction
- Moville Community College in north Inishowen is ready to start construction
- St. Eunan’s College in Letterkenny is ready to go to tender
- Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola has an application for a school building which is at the very early stages
- At Scoil Cholmcille at Kilmacrennan a construction company has been appointed for an autism spectrum disorder, ASD, class extension
- Two classrooms for special education needs were announced in 2019 for Scoil Naomh Baoithin at St. Johnston in Lifford but are still waiting approval
- Scoil Niall Mór in Killybegs has been waiting on stage 2A for a number of months
- Scoil Naomh Fiachra, Illistrin, is currently at stage 2B, planning stage, but there is a concern around whether there is sufficient money to complete this project
- Loreto Milford, has the stage 2A report submitted for a proposed extension and was offered prefabs, but this is not a solution for growing numbers
- The Royal and Prior school in Raphoe had funding committed back in 2019 and it is looking for progress there
- Scoil Íosagáin in Buncrana had to go back for planning because of problems with the awarding of the contract, but it is back on track and needs reassurances as well
- The Crana College campus has applied for an 11-classroom extension
- The principal at Cranford National School was also in touch with me this morning
- Deele College in Raphoe was ready to go to planning last summer and had to bin its application and the design team with 12 to 18 months gone, and its numbers will be 750
- There is also Cashelnagor National School in Gortahork.