Garda Station and VEC building among options for Kickham Barracks

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

By Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

South Tipperary Independent Deputy Seamus Healy asked Defence Minister Alan Shatter if he would confirm the interest of South Tipperary Vocational Education Committee in part of Kickham Barracks

Speaking during Question Time, Deputy Healy said the committee had a building immediately adjacent to the barracks and he know it had an interest in a small portion of the site, together with the north block.

He said he also supported Deputy Mattie McGrath’s comments regarding relocation of the Garda barracks to the barracks site.

Deputy Healy said he had previously raised the matter of a memorial plaque for Company Sergeant Felix Grant and his son Felix, known as Tony, had been in contact with the Department. He was also a member of the Defence Forces, and he had indicated the family’s preference to have the memorial plaque back in Clonmel.

Minister Shatter confirmed that among the groups or individuals which had shown an interest in the barracks is the VEC. “I understand discussions are ongoing in that context and I am optimistic that there will be some fruitful development from those discussions,” he said. “I do not want to pre-empt decisions and I am conscious that there is some way to go on that issue, which involves not just decisions by the VEC and the Department of Defence but matters that must be addressed by the Department of Education and Skills. There has been constructive engagement and I would welcome progress.”

“I am conscious, wearing the two hats I have, of the need for a new Garda station,” he said. “I also know that a portion of the barracks could provide a very good location for a new Garda station. The difficulty is that the Office of Public Works, OPW, the group within the Government which funds the construction of Garda stations, has very limited available funding. We are giving serious consideration to facilitating the reservation of space that would help in building a Garda station at a time when funding becomes available.”In regard to the plaque for Company Sergeant Grant, he said officials from his Department were happy to be engaged in discussions and if an appropriate arrangement can be agreed.

“I would be happy to be of assistance. Some further work needs to be done on the matter,” he added.

Hayes disputes information on extension to Emly N.S.

Planning problems and not changes to the design were the reason for the delay in the building an extra classroom for Emly National School Fine Gael Deputy Tom Hayes told the Dáil.

He said a grant of €100,000 had been obtained for the construction but major planning difficulties arose.

“Some of the restrictions placed on the school mean it must extend the existing roof to mirror the far side of the building, despite the fact this is not structurally necessary,” he said. “The school has been forced to clad the entire extension in expensive stone and limestone, in keeping with the pre-1960s structure. The school has been forced to install cast-iron rainwater gullies to match those of existing buildings. All of these requirements have affected the cost and size of the proposed extension outside the control of the board of management. That means it has not been possible for the school to deliver the required classroom within the budget allocated by the Department.”

In one of the most recent items of correspondence from the Department, officials in the planning and building unit were satisfied the grant approved was sufficient to provide the approved level of accommodation, he said. However, the school and the engineers in question had made a number of compromises in recent months in an attempt to reduce the costs involved. They were still some way from the delivery of the project on budget.

Replying on behalf of the Minister for Education & Skills, Health Minister James Reilly said in July 2010, following an application by the school authority, Emly National School was approved funding of €100,000 under the additional accommodation scheme to provide an 80 sq. m permanent mainstream classroom to the school. In March 2011, the school authority wrote to the Department of Education and Skills requesting additional funding of more than €124,000 in addition to the original funding approved of €100,000. This would bring the costs of building one mainstream classroom to more than €224,000. This was well in excess of the normal basic building costs of €100,000 for a single classroom extension.

“Officials in the Department’s planning and building unit undertook such an examination and it was discovered that the school had significantly increased the scope of works to that which was originally approved,” he said. “The scope of works approved had been increased to a classroom of 104 sq. m, instead of 80 sq. m agreed, a disabled toilet, a staffroom and extensive circulation space. An assessment of the case indicated that even with the planning conditions imposed, the likely extension costs including planning requirements, could be achieved within the original grant of €100,000. In July 2011, the school authorities were notified that the application for additional funding was unsuccessful. The school authorities were informed of the reasons for the refusal and that it was open to the school to reduce the scope of works to stay within the grant allocated.”

Deputy Tom Hayes was visibly frustrated at this reply. “The inaccuracies in that response are a disgrace to any Deputy in this House,” he said. “It is simply wrong to make that point about the size of the school and the extra accommodation. The Department official who wrote this response should be ashamed of himself or herself.”

Minister James Reilly: “I said there was a disabled toilet, a staffroom and extensive circulation space. If this information is inaccurate, the record of the Dáil will have to be corrected by the relevant Minister and I will certainly bring the matter to his notice.”