Willie O’Dea: Minister has power to intervene
THE ISSUE of concessionary school transport is expected to shortly be raised in the Dáil after families in the Caherconlish area were left stranded without a bus.
Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea is currently seeking a motion to debate the issue with Minister for Training, Skills, Innovation, Research and Development John Halligan.
Families in Caherconlish were left without a bus to get their children to school in Hospital after they were advised they do not qualify for a place on the concessionary school bus as their homes are closer to the GPO in Limerick city.
“I am in the process of seeking a motion in the Dáil so I can question this. I will be putting it in for consideration next week,” Deputy O’Dea said.
If a motion is not considered, he will be submitting a Parliamentary Question, he added.
“It is very unfair on families to be left without transport and advised at such short notice.”
Deputy O’Dea also believes the Minister has the power to intervene in the issue.
“The Minister can intervene, I did it myself as Minister but he seems to be completely hands off and letting the civil servants deal with it.
“There is a big problem because back in 2001 when the system was changed, there was about 4,500 concessionary pupils in the country and about 500 were refused. But now the situation has escalated.
“There’s another 7,000 who couldn’t get tickets, it’s a national problem.”
As previously reported by the Limerick Leader, families in the Caherconlish area have been left without school transport as Bus Eireann deemed their homes closer to the GPO in the city than to their secondary school, John the Baptist Community School.
One parent in the Ballyneety area was told her daughter, a second-year JTB student, should be in school in Crescent College Comprehensive because it is her “nearest school” and that she did not qualify for a place on the bus this year.
In a statement issued by Minister Halligan, he said: “Children are generally eligible for school transport if they satisfy the distance criteria and are attending their nearest school.
“Because of the nature of concessionary transport for non-eligible children and the priority of providing places for eligible children, there may be an excess of demand over supply for concessionary places. In these cases Bus Éireann will allocate tickets for spare seats using a random selection process.
“Under the terms of the scheme, the availability of concessionary transport varies from year to year based on the capacity on the buses running on all of the various routes and the number of eligible children accommodated on each route.”
Meanwhile, it is understood a separate issue with school bus transport for pupils of Knockainey National School has been resolved locally.
The school bus is now collecting students in the village of Elton.