Sinn Féin spokesperson on Transport Darren O’Rourke has called on the Minister for Education to publish the public health advice which proposes to allow school buses operate at 100% capacity.
The Meath East TD was responding to confirmation that the National Public Health Emergency Team have expressed serious concerns about government school transport protocols.
Teachta O’Rourke said: “The chaos at the heart of government decision-making in relation to school bus transport was highlighted this morning when Dr Philip Nolan confirmed NPHET’s concerns on RTÉ Morning Ireland.
“Staggeringly, he was then followed by Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, who claimed on the RTÉ Today Show that yesterday was the first he had heard of these concerns.
“With just days before schools open, this is incredible stuff.
“It is clear that NPHET are unsatisfied with the protocols and advice currently in place for school bus transport, and indeed for public transport more generally.
“I share these concerns and have highlighted them repeatedly. I will raise those concerns again today with Ministers Foley, Ryan and with Bus Éireann.
“The government’s updated public health advice is to avoid the use of public transport – except for the 120,000 children who use it to get to school, including 14,200 with special educational needs and many with underlying conditions and additional, often complex, healthcare needs.
“Despite this, there is no commitment for additional buses or additional drivers, no commitment to priority access to testing. Many private operators and bus escorts will receive no additional funding for PPE or sanitisation, while others will receive just €4.50 a day. None of it adds up.
“Parents, bus drivers and operators, bus escorts and opposition politicians are now joined by NPHET in their call for clarity and reassurance. Surely this is clear enough indication for the Minister that this is a matter that requires urgent attention.
“I am calling on the the Minister for Education to publish the public health advice. She should state clearly why she believes her approach is safe and reasonable. I don’t believe that she will be able to do that.
“Along with the Minister for Transport, she should meet with drivers and the representatives groups of operators to address their concerns in relation to loading, hygiene protocols and safety.
“Their concerns and the concerns of parents of children with underlying health conditions, special educational needs, and their bus escorts are of the highest priority.
“I am calling on the two Ministers to intervene before the weekend. Time is of the essence.”