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Coalition pursuing 'scorched earth' policy on rural schools, says principal

Coalition pursuing 'scorched earth' policy on rural schools, says principal

A PRIMARY school principal has accused Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Coalition of overseeing education cuts that would lead to a “scorched earth” policy in rural Ireland.

Principal of Partry primary school Tom Byrne also accused rural Government TDs of “hiding in the bushes” and of becoming “invertebrates once they crossed the Shannon”.

He told more than 2,000 protesters in Castlebar at the weekend that schoolchildren and rural communities were more important than “the bondholders of Europe, the €70 million EU presidency bill or the €28 million legal bill for Nama”. The protest was part of a growing campaign to save small schools in rural Ireland.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has, however, said repeatedly that savings had to be made after cuts were reversed elsewhere.

He has conceded that cutting 428 resource teaching posts in disadvantaged or Deis schools was a mistake, but insisted he did not have extra resources.

“So if I have to keep those positions in place, I have to take resources from somewhere else within my budget.”

At the Castlebar demonstration on Saturday, protesters carried placards, including one which stated: “If you can read this sign, thank a teacher, not a politician.”

Mr Byrne said: “Our children do not have the luxury of services on their doorstep … our rural people and our way of life do not matter to Ruairí Quinn. Remember, he does not need your vote.”

Mayo constituents, he said, placed their trust in Mr Kenny and in his statement last April that the Government would not shut down small rural schools. Mr Byrne said no Government deputy was given a mandate to close down those schools.

He said the Taoiseach and Tánaiste attended rural schools and knew their value.

Afterwards, to chants of “Enda Kenny, shame on you”, the protesters walked through the town to the Taoiseach’s constituency office, where a letter was handed in to his assistant, Cllr Ger Deere.

Mary Calvey, principal of Drumgallagh primary school, Ballycroy, said the proposal “downgraded the whole educational system. Enda Kenny came from a rural school himself and should know that schools are the heartbeat of their communities.”

Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh said a number of the 19 schools in the isolated Erris region of northwest Co Mayo would be affected.

“The parents and teachers are asking Enda Kenny to listen to them. After all, he is familiar with … these schools,” she said.

Máire Nic An Fhailghigh, principal of the seven-teacher Fahy National School near Westport, recalled how she had met Mr Kenny at a rural school function just two days after he was appointed Taoiseach.

“I spoke to him as Gaeilge and said: ‘Ná dean dearmuid ar na scoileanna tuaithe,’ and he replied: ‘I never will. I attended one in Cornacool and I taught in one.’ Well, a year later our school may lose two teachers due to the 10 per cent cutbacks in special education needs and to the ludicrous arrangements for general allocation funding.”

Foilsithe ar 27 Feabhra 2012

Foilsithe ar - 27 Feabhra 2012

The Irish Times - Áine Ryan

Bí ar an eolas - Cláraigh dár ríomhirisí

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