April 20, 2020
Talk of reopening schools is premature – Louise O’Reilly and Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

Sinn Féin have called for clear and robust criteria to be outlined before any decision is made to reopen schools.

The Party was responding to comments made by Health Minister Simon Harris over the weekend, which suggested that schools could be reopened one day a week on a phased basis.

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said that no steps should be taken that could undermine public health and that no move to reopen schools should be made unless there is absolute confidence in public safety.

Speaking today, Teachta O’Reilly said: “If the Government wants to reopen schools, and of course that is a desirable thing to work towards, we need to be confident that there is a plan to ensure that it is safe to do so.

“This must be an open, transparent and inclusive process. We need to have a benchmark or criteria that is reached in our response to the pandemic and this can only be arrived at after discussions involving public health officials, teachers and learners.”

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has said that flying kites has been an unfortunate element of the debate on educational issues throughout this pandemic.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said: “It is unfortunate that ideas that are not even half formed are floating out yet again, without any detail in them to allay concerns from parents, teachers and students about their safety.

“Of course parents and teachers want schools to open again, while children are missing their friends and social interaction they get from school.

“But the safety of students and teachers is the primary concern right now and schools should only reopen if it is safe for them to do so. 

“This is something that cannot be done on a wing and a prayer and it cannot be an issue which is left to schools to figure out themselves.

“Schools and teachers will need guidance on, for example, how to manage social distancing at the school gate, on hygiene procedures, and if for examples gloves are needed and, if so, who provides them.”

“There also needs to be consultation with trade unions and educational partners.

“None of this detail is out there now. We do not know to what extent this idea has been measured against public health advice and in the absence of that, commentary of this kind from Minister Harris is unhelpful and premature.”

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