February 19, 2021
Return to school too important to be made up on the hoof by government – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has said that a return to schools is crucially important, and a shared objective of all in politics, but a coherent plan is necessary to achieve it.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Getting children back in the classroom is an objective shared across society and across politics. It is something I and Sinn Féin want to see delivered in a way that is safe and sustainable.

“Parents, staff and especially children deserve a coherent, fully formed plan. Unfortunately that has not been forthcoming from government.

“It is vitally important that lessons are learned from January and the complete fiasco that was made by government of the reopening of special education in the first instance.

“On that occasion, there was no preparation, and dates were thrown out without having any agreement or a clear plan in place.

“That led to people being let down when these proposals collapsed. Government cannot keep letting people down by putting out dates that are not going to be met.

“People want government to:

  • Agree a plan on education with all stakeholders
  • Stop off the cuff, contradictory leaks and speculative commentary until there is a plan 
  • Inform parents, staff and children of what is happening

“Then they need to get on with delivering it.  

“This government’s record of half communicating and constant contradictions is leading to extraordinary levels of frustration. 

“On Tuesday, it was reported that return would begin on March 1st before government rolled back on this when the Taoiseach said on 7 Lá that it was a rumour. 

“By Wednesday, this date was back on the table at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting and was repeated by the Taoiseach in an interview last night. 

“This is a haphazard, bungling way of communicating, particularly when none of this has yet been agreed by government. 

“Now, today, the Minister for Children made comments contradicting that of the Taoiseach and other ministers about who was returning on the 1st and on the 15th. 

“People don’t know whether they are coming or going and the government appear not to either.

“This is too important to be made up on the hoof by government.

“A clear plan on education and on the return to school, along with measures to make schools safer, can get the backing of the public and of staff.

“We in Sinn Féin, and I expect the opposition broadly, will support it if it is coherent and the preparation work is done. 

“There is a great deal more needed in terms of ensuring schools are made as safe as possible, including reversing the 40 per cent cut to PPE grants, serial testing, a specific approach to schools with high number of cases and crucially flexibility for high risk workers.

“It is right to aim to get children back to the classroom. But for that to happen, we need a clear plan, and unfortunately, that hasn’t been forthcoming.”

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