Kilkenny TD proposes a new affordable co-operative housing exchange scheme

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“What is happening has to stop,” Deputy John McGuinness said.

New legislation which would provide for a national affordable co-operative housing exchange scheme and a non-compulsory purchase option for preferred not-for-profit housing agencies was introduced in the Dáil by Deputy John McGuinness.

“What is happening has to stop,” he said. “I invite Members to go to any of the courts or to attend any meetings involving the vulture funds.

“One can see how arrogant and aggressive they are, and how their lack of understanding is pitted against ordinary individuals and gives them no chance whatsoever.

“We are repeatedly informed by the banks that the protection for the mortgage holder travels with the loan. That is simply not true. By turning a blind eye, we are allowing the vulture funds to do huge damage to society and to families.”

Deputy McGuinness said he wished to acknowledge the work done by Mr. Edmund Honohan, the Master of the High Court, and the huge contribution he made in terms of the Bill.

“He did this in a non-political way for reasons arising from his experience in the courts,” he said. “I compliment Mr Honohan and also Mr Brian Reilly of Right2Homes. What is being done by Mr David Hall in respect of a particular pilot scheme shows that this Bill can work.”

He said he was introducing the Bill, but he was asking Deputies of every single party and none to find space on agenda in order that it might be debated.

“If it is not Fianna Fáil that takes this matter forward, it could be Sinn Féin, Labour, Fine Gael or anyone else,” he said.

“It could be the Independent Alliance. Regardless of who it is, the critical thing is that society needs an answer to the problems of today.”

Call to restore full school capitation grants

Principals in primary schools are calling for the capitation grant to be restored to its pre-cut level of €200 annually per child, Senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor told the Seanad.

She said there are more than 500,000 children enrolled in 3,000 primary schools in Ireland. Many of these schools are small with over 50% of them having four or fewer teachers.

“According to the chief inspector’s report on schools, Government spending per pupil has fallen by 15% since 2010 and Ireland is now spending less per primary pupil than the EU or OECD average,” she said.

“Of the 28 countries in the EU there are only five countries that spend less than Ireland on primary and pre-primary school age children, with Romania and Bulgaria being two examples.”

According to a recent report by Grant Thornton, she said the capitation grant now covers an average of only 52% of the running cost of a school.

Last year, parents and local communities paid at least €46 million to support their local schools, which works out at an average of €14,000 per primary school or €82 per primary school pupil.

“This is for so-called free education,” she said. “This payment is a stealth tax on parents. I call on the Minister of State (Catherine Byrne) to ask the Minister to make a pledge to restore the capitation grant, by means of a phased structure or otherwise, and to relieve schools of the worry about maintenance and the minor works grant paid every year as a non-discretionary payment by the Government.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Deputy Bobby Aylward said he had been contacted by several teachers from small, rural-based schools near Carlow and Kilkenny.

“They strongly believe the current funding model is unfair with the amount of money paid based on student numbers,” he said.

“Rural schools are most disadvantaged under the current system. Will the Government and the Minister commit to an increase in capitation grants in this year’s budget?”

In response to Senator Murnane O’Connor, Minister of State Byrne said restoring capitation funding as resources permit is one of the actions included in the Action Plan for Education and the Government remains committed to achieving this.

“The cost of restoring the standard capitation grant to all schools at primary and post-primary level is estimated at some €35 million,” she said.

“In 2018, the budget for the Department of Education and Skills increased by €554 million to more than €10 billion.

“In the last two budgets, provision was made for 6,000 extra teachers, 3,000 extra special needs assistants and more than 3,000 new middle management posts.

“Extra supports were also provided to 110 schools in disadvantaged areas which will benefit 20,000 students, and to build nearly 20,000 extra school places a year.”