Schools programme shows that government can get it right
THIS week the Government announced an action plan for rural Ireland.
There wasn’t too much fanfare in this part of the country and the feeling is that the plan will focus on the western seaboard and the midlands and places such as Louth which is in the catchment of greater Dublin will not have the same priority.
The plan is aimed at bringing ‘ tangible benefits to people and communities’ in up to 600 rural areas of the country.
I hope it is not another case of decentralisation dressed up in new clothing. Decentralisation which of itself as a sound concept, was a disaster as it tried to give something for virtually every rural town in Ireland and that was before the pressure of political patronage made the matter worse.
The simple fact is that the financial resources available are finite and we cannot do everything in one go, but that is not to say that the plan will be a wasted effort to revitalise rural communities.
Despite the perception otherwise, government and administrators can be ex- tremely in implementing plans.
The only proof you need is to take a close look at our education system, or more particularly at our schools and their infrastructure.
There are many challenges in our education system, class sizes being amongst the most pressing, Junior Certificate reform has been torturous and the issue of school patronage in a changing Ireland has not been grasped firmly enough.
However by and large our school buildings are in good shape.
Over the past decade or so significant investment has taken place in our primary and secondary school sector.
Just take a virtual tour around the town for a second and you see the wonderful new Marist Secondary School, while just across the road Coláiste Rís has had an extension with new canteen and classroom facilities.
In Chapel Street the CBS Primary School has had a major extension, so too has the respective parts of St Malachy’s Infants, Girls and Boys Schools.
An extension of St Joseph’s National School opened late last year virtually doubled the size of the previous school, while construction work has commenced on the new campus for Colaisti Lú and Chu Chulainn across from the Marshes Shopping Centre.
Over the last number of months I have visited various schools around the town and county, such as the relatively new St Francis NS in Blackrock, Oliver Plunketts NS also in the seaside village, St Peter’s NS in Dromiskin, Monastery Boys NS in Ardee and Ardaghy NS in Omeath. All fine, modern, cheerful school buildings, long gone is the institutional feel from previous generations.
The capital programme may have been required with bulging school going populations but the work has been carried out and continues.
The biggest priority and challenge for the present government is providing houses in the current crisis. Perhaps that too can be a success in due course.