| Home | Archived Issues | Contact Us | Subscribe | Donegal Town |

April 9th 2003

| Front Page | Jaundiced Eye | Sport | Other Stories |



Weren’t the 140,000 children who walked out of their schools this week lucky to have the good weather? The sun shone as they and their parents left the many schools that ‘had leaking roofs, rotting walls, windows which will not close, rat infestation, little or no heating, no proper security, no proper cleaning or maintenance and a host of other difficulties’ according to one Dail Deputy. What a change the fresh air and sunshine must have meant for the kids.
It recalls the days of the Hedge Schools where many Irish people were educated a hundred years ago – not only in the Three Rs but also in the classics. Perhaps we should prepare a submission to the Government for the return of the Hedge Schools as the base for our education system? It would be accepted, I would think, faster than any other proposal in history. As Bashful Bertie says ‘it is not possible to wipe out, in the short term, the cumulative deficit of generations’. Quite right, Bertie. Question: Who, or what Party, was in power for most of those generations? Answer: Both of the major Parties presently deploring the situation in the Dail this week, with a little help from their Labour friends.

Now, if Bashful Bertie agrees to bringing back the Hedge Schools he and his Government would not have to worry about providing hot meals to 53 school children with disabilities. Enable Ireland says these meals cost $71,000 per year and they can no longer afford them. Bertie, Charlie and Mary must be very proud of Enable Ireland who have learned so well from them - cut back on the most vulnerable because they won’t have a voice to make a fuss. They have studied well under their Mentor, George Dubya who, within a few months of becoming President, cut $200 million from the Childcare & Development Grant (a programme for low income families). One would be very cynical to question the ethics of a Government appointed and funded organisation such as Enable Ireland who, out of a budget of €16 million that, as Bertie says ‘hot meals to children seem to be cut back before anything else’. Well, Bertie, who are our role models? Ethical Mary,Cheerful Charlie, and yourself – not to mention Minister for Health Michael Martin and his Health Boards.
However, we here in Donegal can be happy that our local Minister for Social and Family Affairs immediately stepped in and sent an application form to Enable Ireland to apply for the school meals scheme. Her Department may fill the gap. Enable Ireland had announced the cancellation of the hot meals ‘because of financial difficulties’. However, Enable Ireland said they would apply but ‘it only covers 50% of the cost’ – out of their budget of €16m. The Parents and Friends Committee of the schools has welcomed the Donegal Minister’s intervention.

Bertie made a big deal of letting us all know the millions Enable Ireland receive from the Government annually under the Health Act, 2001. But the body had a shortfall between the costs of providing services and the funding received from the Health Boards of €4 million. $4 million! Are you listening, Bertie?

The Government could save a fortune if they return to the Hedge school system, as the extraordinary, and obviously unreal, expectations of the population to have safe shelter for their children as they are educated could be put to rest. However, Bertie and the Minister for Education have a plan – isn’t that great? We have had plans before, too! Bertie says the Minister for Education has ‘a very significant plan’. This year he tells us the School Building programme amounts to €342.9 million – that is what the programme says – but will it be spent this year? Let’s wait and see. In the meantime, it is believed that some parents who do not understand the financial situation, are threatening to sue the Government on the basis of the danger to their children’s health attending for several hours a day buildings that would otherwise be condemned.

Some people are very unrealistic – even journalists – when they go on the radio and complain about cutbacks affecting the most vulnerable in our society – children, people with disabilities and the elderly. These critics just do not understand the Government’s problems. We have not yet heard statistics from our own North Western Health Board, but the North Eastern Area Health Board has cut back its hours of home help by 86,000 hours. ‘We’re operating under budget constraints’ they say. (Are we not all operating under budget constraints in the homes of Ireland?) They tell us this because they know we will understand and take no notice of those whingers who complain about Alzheimer’s patients being cut back on hours, elderly people missing out on some days of home help, etc. Children, people with disabilities and the Elderly do not have unions to fight their cases for them – they depend on the likes of us to care and to tell the Government what they need. Do we care? Let’s wait and see…..will the schools be repaired and built? Will meals be restored? Will home helps be available to the elderly and sick? Will the media do an up-date on these particular stories in a few weeks – or move on to something more glamourous? Do we want to know?

As we are now acknowledged to be a satellite of George Dubya’s Government, and have buried our neutrality as well as the Celtic Tiger and a few old fashioned principles that had still been floating around, it might be a good idea to get to know George Dubya – so the Eye will provide one fact about our George at the end of the column – some of these ‘adjustments’ will sound familiar, proving what good students our Mary and Charlie are….
Food for thought - The Great Family Man George Dubya cut $700 million in funds for public housing repairs in his first few months in office.

The Donegal Times, The Diamond, Donegal Town, Ireland

Tel: +353-73-22860 Fax: +353-73-22937