The parents of more than 20 children with learning difficulties have been left without a school bus service – because of the lack of a driver.
The bus service to the Educate Together National School in Newcastle from west of the county ceased in early September – a week after the pupils returned following the summer break.
And, according to Senator Pauline O’Reilly, that has seriously impacted on more than 20 families in the Moycullen and Rosscahill area.
The Green Party politician raised the matter in the Seanad last week when she revealed that the pupils now have to be transported to school by car.
Senator O’Reilly, who is her party’s Education Spokesperson in the Seanad, said that one mother who contacted her has to take an hour of annual leave every single day to bring her kids into school as she starts work at 8am.
This same mother then has to pay an additional €15 to a childminder every day in order to get somebody to collect her kids and bring them home to Rosscahill.
“It is obviously a real frustration for these families but to me it is also frustrating because of the environmental impact it is having. It is completely unnecessary travel,” she said.
“I brought up on numerous occasions at the education committee that I simply see no real initiative in the Department of Education when it comes to the environment.
“I am delighted that we finally got solar panels on school buildings over the line last week.
“However, when it comes to school transport, it is a joke. Some 30% of the traffic in Galway is kids being brought to school in a car when they could all be on buses if we got that bit right.
“We would love to see the Department of Education allow school transport to go into the Department of Transport so it could be joined up.
“If it could all be joined up so that we have one transport system that everybody could use, we could get away from these issues.
“I know the issue in Moycullen and Rosscahill is the lack of a bus driver. I know that the same issue applies in many areas. But the way we do transport in this country is very inefficient,” she added.
In response, Minister of State Mary Butler said that Bus Éireann has confirmed to her that no services were cancelled.
However, she confirmed that there is currently no contractor or driver to operate the service in question.
“This is against a backdrop of a significant shortage of drivers in the labour market overall and competing demands for drivers to deliver additional public transport initiatives,” she said.
These include Connecting Ireland, BusConnects and Local Link services.
Minister Butler added that Bus Éireann has confirmed to her that the route in question is currently in the procurement process and once a suitable contractor or driver is sourced, transport will re-commence.
Pictured: Senator Pauline O’Reilly.
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