Munster calls on Minister to ensure no school lose a teacher

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has called on the Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, to ensure no primary school should lose a teacher ahead of the planned reopening of schools at the end of the month, given the enormous challenges facing schools as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Deputy Munster raised the issue after concerns were raised in recent weeks that several schools in Louth would be losing teachers as a result of changes in enrolment numbers for the coming  academic year.

Deputy Munster said:

“I have received correspondence from parents at St. Patrick’s National School, Harestown, Monasterboice and the  Rampark National School in Jenkinstown, Dundalk  who are very concerned that their schools are due to lose teaching positions ahead of the new school term.

“In St Patrick’s NS in Harestown one teaching position will be lost, which will result in mixed level classes of up to 31 children. Parents have said that this will make physical distancing impossible. This teaching post must be reinstated.

“In Rampark NS, two teaching positions have been lost since last September. The school is six pupils short of retaining both teaching positions. This has left the school in a position where the pupil to teacher ratio in classrooms from first class up to sixth class is 32:1

“Both of these schools will now be operating well above the recommended pupil to teacher ratio of 26:1. This is too high in normal circumstances, but it is completely unacceptable in the midst of a pandemic where physical distancing is central to ensuring the safety of children and staff.

“I raised the situation at Harestown with Minister Foley, and received a response from her office outlining why the school was not eligible to retain its existing staff. It is clear from the response that the department is not taking the additional challenges caused by the current crisis into account in its decision making on staff allocations.

“The views expressed in the response I received from her office do not correlate with statements made by the Minister on this very matter prior to her appointment as Minister for Education. On June 8th in the Dáil then-Deputy Foley highlighted the need for a safe environment for our children, and said ‘under the current guidelines we need more, not fewer teachers. I am calling on the Minister and the Department to include additional places for teachers to reflect the current circumstances.’

“I would suggest that the Minister revert to her previous position on this matter and introduce a freeze on staffing levels this year in all primary schools. The positions due to be lost in St Patrick’s NS and Rampark NS must be reinstated immediately to give both schools every opportunity to reopen safely at the end of the month. This is a matter of public safety and the issue must be rectified immediately.

 

Munster: Utmost priority must be given to Northern Cross Route application by Louth County Council

Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath Imelda Munster has called on Louth County Council to give the utmost priority to the application for funding for the Northern Cross Route under the LIHAF programme.

The window for applications opened on 1st February, and is due to close on 31st March.

Deputy Munster said:

“This is the third opportunity to apply for funding, with the council previously submitting two unsuccessful applications.

“The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, following a proposal I made to the Minister after the last unsuccessful application, organised a workshop on the 5th February last, and I was glad to hear that two senior staff members of Louth County Council were in attendance.

“It is imperative that the new application fits the new defined criteria, and it’s also imperative that this is a case of third time lucky for the application.

“Once Louth County Council have confirmed that the application has been submitted, and once I have seen a copy of same, I will pursue it with the Minister to ensure that this vital piece of infrastructure, that has been in planning since 2006, can finally get the go-ahead from government.

“We can no longer put up with daily gridlock in Drogheda. This is about a vital piece of infrastructure and sustainable planning, and it is a must for Drogheda.

“We’ve waited long enough.”

Upgrade Work a Sign of a Hardening Border? O’Murchú

Is upgrading work at a former British Army base in South Armagh a sign of a hardening of the border ahead of Brexit?

That’s the question that Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú is seeking the answer to after he raised the issue of work activity on Forkhill Mountain with Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee TD, in Leinster House on June 11.

The Louth TD visited the remote mountain-top site on Forkhill Mountain ahead of his contribution in Leinster House during a debate about Brexit. He was joined by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council representative, Cllr. Declan Murphy.

Mr Ó Murchú said he had been prompted to go to the site after receiving ‘worrying’ reports from people who live in the area about large scale activity on the mountaintop the previous week.

He said that what he saw on the mountain corroborated what he had been told by concerned residents.

Mr Ó Murchú said: “Forkhill Mountain is just half a mile from the border. It was previously the site of a major military installation for the British Army and they officially left in 2006.

“However, the helipad and other remnants of their time at this outpost remain. What I saw on Thursday was a heavily fortified area, which contained a massive mast, with a number of satellite dishes on it, along with six sizable steel container-style structures, some of which emit loud whirring noises. Telecommunications infrastructure, at least one sizable camera, has been maintained and upgraded and major works have taken place recently.

“This was all surrounded with high grade steel fencing, with barbed wire at the top. It is sited right at the peak of Forkill Mountain, which gives unrivalled and uninterrupted views right over Dundalk, Ravensdale and all the way to Carlingford Lough.

Locals have told Mr Ó Murchú that on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week (June 3, 4 and 5 2020), numerous vehicles and huge amount of personnel were on the site including 5/6 Police cars and a further 6/7 ‘civilian’ vans.

“In addition, there was a Bogmaster vehicle brought up the mountain. 

“The last similar sized operation on the site happened at the end of October 2019 and it has been reported that there are regular smaller visits three or four times a month. During some operations helicopters have been used to carry equipment and personnel to the site.”

Mr Ó Murchú said “locals have previously been told the equipment was for
ambulance and fire service communications, but there are fears this is not the case.

“There were also reports that the PSNI admitted that British army engineers were involved in the October operation.”  

The Sinn Féin TD raised the issue in Leinster House on Thursday with Minister McEntee, and asked her to contact the British government to get clarity on these operations.

“We welcome the fact that the Irish Government have stated that they are, and have been, committed to ensuring the border community is protected and no border infrastructure is developed.

“However, there is a low level of trust among the people of North Louth and South Armagh that the British government would keep their word on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Irish Protocol. 

“The people of the border area need certainty from both Governments that no border infrastructure hard or soft will be erected.”

 

Munster calls for Drogheda-Laytown bus route to be extended to Julianstown

Imelda Munster TD for Louth and East Meath has called for the D1/D2 bus route between Drogheda and Laytown to be extended as far as Julianstown with an additonal stop at Sonairte – The National Ecology Centre at The Ninch on the R150.

Deputy Munster said:

“This minor bus route extension which would only add an additional 4km each way from the current terminus at Laytown train station would be of enormous benefit to local people.

“It would also be invaluable for visitors to Sonairte as well as the Tús and CE employees who work there, some of whom have existing medical conditions and have no option but to walk an extra 15/20 minutes from Laytown train station along the R150, a dangerous stretch of road with no footpaths or lighting.

“As it stands Sonairte, an environmental charity since 1986 open to the Public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, is inaccessible to many who don’t drive but would love to avail of its Vegetarian/Vegan Café, Eco Shop selling produce grown in their organic gardens, and nature walk along the Nanny riverside.

“Furthermore, this simple change which would provide a public bus service between Julianstown and Laytown would also connect the existing Bus Eireann Dublin/ Airport/Drogheda bus route which currently stops in Julianstown, to Laytown, Bettystown, Mornington and Donacarney.

“As it is, most people from the East Meath coastal villages have to disembark from the Dublin/ Airport bus at Julianstown or Drogheda and get a taxi for the remainder of their journey.

“I have written to Bus Eireann and the National Transport Authority requesting that they examine the feasibility of extending this much needed service.

“While people living in this area have warmly welcomed the recent improvements to the bus service between Drogheda and Laytown, a bus link to the main Dublin Road from the villages is long overdue especially given the huge and ongoing population explosion in the area.”

Munster welcomes Fáilte Ireland “destination town” funding allocation

Imelda Munster, Sinn Féin TD for Louth and East Meath has welcomed today’s announcement that Drogheda is to be allocated “significant funding” by Fáilte Ireland to develop its potential as a tourism “destination town”.   

The funding has been allocated through Louth County Council under the “Destination Towns” initiative launched earlier this year by the National Tourism Development Authority.   

The exact allocation has not been finalised yet, however the finding will connect the historic features of the town including the East-West between Old Abbey and St Lawrence’s Gate and the North-South between Magdalene Tower and Millmount Fort.

Deputy Munster said:

“I am delighted that Louth County Council’s proposal was given the go ahead, and that this funding has become available.

“Those of us who live in Drogheda are well aware of the town’s potential as a tourism destination. The town proved itself in the last two years when we hosted Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, which saw the biggest visitor numbers in the history of the event.

“Tourism is very important to Drogheda, and this funding will go a long way in improving existing tourist attractions, as well as promoting tourism.

“I look forward to seeing further details when they are finalised in January, and I am sure that the town will reap the rewards of this funding in the coming years”.