Thursday, 1 February 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
9. Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Education and Science if it is now proposed to implement the decision of the last Government to establish the west Cork third level campus based in Skibbereen, County Cork. [1426/01]
Dr. Woods: The Government decision of 8 April 1997 was to locate at Skibbereen, on a pilot basis, an outreach centre of Cork Regional Technical College using a high level of telematic delivery of educational programmes. The centre was to have inter-active conference links with outreach centres at Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, and at the University of Missouri at St. Louis.
Cork Institute of Technology, formerly Cork Regional Technical College, submitted proposals for two phases of the development of the outcentre on 12 June 1997. My Department requested sanction from the Department of Finance for expenditure for the planning phase of the proposal on 19 June 1997. There have been ongoing discussions with the Department of Finance in relation to Skibbereen. More recently, I announced my plans to strengthen the education base in regions which are not well served at present and to establish effective links with higher and third level institutions. Details of this initiative are currently being finalised in my Department including the position in relation to Skibbereen.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: How long does it take the Government to implement a Cabinet decision? The Minister admitted a decision was made in April 1997. Why has it not been implemented? Is it an indication that the Government is reneging on the decision? Is it allowing the decision to fade away by default? The Minister owes an answer to the House and the people of west Cork. I demand those answers now.
Dr. Woods: The Government requested the Higher Education Authority to undertake a general review of the outreach centres. This review has been published and the Higher Education Authority considered the model proposed by the technical working group to be sufficiently worthwhile to merit a pilot project. It recommended Skibbereen as a location for it and it wanted a particular focus on telematics. As I said, I am in favour of reach out centres rather than outreach centres, in other words, establishing indigenous centres in particular areas, and I am having Skibbereen examined in that context. I certainly will be pursuing that.
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: Is the Minister aware that his predecessor, the Minister, Deputy Martin, came to Skibbereen in 1997 and promised that that decision would be implemented and that the Taoiseach came to Skibbereen in 1998 and made the same promise, but both promises proved worthless? Now I must put trust and faith in the current Minister. Will he please get away from the departmental waffle and these worthless Fianna Fáil promises and tell me so that I can tell the people of west Cork that they can have some faith and confidence that after three and a half years the Government will implement that decision, which in the meantime has been endorsed by the HEA? Will the Minister say  plainly and unequivocally that the job will be done and when it will be done, or will his word be as worthless as that of the other two Fianna Fáil gentlemen I mentioned?
Mr. J. O'Keeffe: There is already a decision of Government on it. Why has it not been implemented? Is it the practice of the Cabinet to ignore a Government decision which the Minister has read out in his reply? About what is this further consideration? Why has a Cabinet decision on the west Cork campus been totally ignored?
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