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(Ireland) Co Laois: Delay in $9.5M school for "severe to profound special needs"

Jan 23, 2024, Laois Live: Minister for Education Norma Foley urged for news on delayed Laois special school

Portlaoise Municipal District Fine Gael councillor Barry Walsh wants Kolbe updates

E. central Ireland

Regular updates for the long delayed Portlaoise school building, are sought on foot of a motion tabled by Fine Gael Cllr Barry Walsh.

He also wants to be given an updated timeline on when the school will be finished. 

Cllr Walsh said he is being "constantly asked" for updates by the public.

"We as councillors need to be regularly updated. This needs to be fasttracked. These kids deserve better than what they have been given," he said, at the January meeting of Portlaoise Municipal District.

Cllr Willie Aird said he listened to a "heartwrenching" interview with Kolbe parents on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland.

"They are the last people left in Portlaoise to get a new school. There is no foundation or anything yet. From the timeframe we got in the hall we thought it would be nearly complete by now. The Minister should come forward and give us the completion date. It's just horrendous," he said.

Cllr Marie Tuohy agrees.

"it's soul destroying for parents. They get good news then it's put back again. It seems to go on forever. Imagine in this weather trying to heat where those children are," she said.

Cllr John Joe Fennelly said they are all getting calls from concerned local people.

"We don't know more than what we are being told either. We have to get this from the top officials," he said.

"It's unacceptable," Cllr Thomasina Connell added.

"We were told by Deputy Charlie Flanagan that the ESB is moving the cable as soon as possible," she said.

She asked the Director of Services Simon Walton if the council had a link with the contractor. 

Mr Walton said the Department of Education was best placed to provide updates.

"The council was originally involved to put one of the 38KV cables underground and we had facilitated that. I'll write today," he said.

Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise relies on poorly insulated prefabs, to teach and nurse some 40 of Laois' most vulnerable children with severe to profound special needs. A plan for a new building was first discussed in the year 2000.

A site is waiting for several years. Planning and €8.7m  [$9.5M] of funding are approved, site preparation began in May 2023 and the main contractor is ready. 

However construction cannot yet start.

The latest hold-up was caused by the wait for paperwork from the HSE to permit the burial of overhead electricity power lines across their land. That paper work was received by the ESB on January 10.

An ESB spokesperson said then that "it is envisaged that the works will be completed by the end of February/start of March."

The principal Orlagh Mahon said at that time that she is told that it will take 18 months to build and so she hopes children can move in for September 2025.


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