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Gary Gannon TD

Nero fiddling has nothing on the diddling of the Minister while our schools fell victim to an airborne virus

Education Minister Norma Foley owes school communities an apology after her Department performed a u-turn on the advice on mask wearing in schools, according to Social Democrats Education Spokesperson Gary Gannon.

“Last week, schools were given mere hours to prepare for the roll out of mask wearing in schools. The initial instructions, delivered as a dictate by the Minister, were that schools should exclude children who did not wear a mask unless those children had a cert from their GP. Predictably, GPs were not consulted before this advice was issued.

“Today, schools have finally received more conciliatory advice on this new policy. It sensibly states that children who do not wear masks should not be excluded in the first instance and that discussions must take place with parents and the department before this step is taken.

“It further states that schools can act with some discretion, having consulted with parents, so that children who have particular difficulties wearing a mask do not have to get a cert from a GP. While this updated advice is welcome, it is bizarre that it took the Department so long to issue it – and that the Minister implemented the policy before this essential guidance was ready. The Minister owes school communities an apology for this shambles.

“The Minister has also now performed a screeching u-turn on Hepa filters, with €30 million in funding suddenly becoming available for their installation. The fact that this was only done after schools became ground zero in our fight against covid is something the Minister must answer for.

“Nero fiddling has nothing on the diddling of the Minister while our schools fell victim to an airborne virus. It is a scandal that sensible mitigation measures, like Hepa filters, were resisted for so long by the Minister – in contravention of the government’s own expert group on ventilation.”

6 December, 2021


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