Speaking in the Dáil today, Sinn Féin TD for Sligo-Leitrim Martin Kenny criticised the criteria restricting school transport and the application of the “nearest school rule” and expressed his anger over the failure of the Minister to recognise the special situation impacting counties like Leitrim.
Deputy Kenny said: “It has a particular impact on families living in rural parishes. The Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy John Halligan, established a group to deal with the issue, but nothing has come of it.
“The parish of Gortletteragh is quite large, with 47 townlands. The school is smack in the middle. A number of families live on the periphery and are entitled to a school bus service but not to the school in the parish in which they live. They must travel to the next parish. In fact, some of them have to travel to Drumlish in the next county of Longford, which is totally inappropriate.
“When the rule was introduced, there was no consideration given to the impact it would have on people living in rural areas.
“My understanding is that it resulted from a directive or circular from the Department. Everybody knows that people living in rural Ireland have a particular affinity with their parish."
Deputy Kenny said the school in Gortletteragh, is holding a meeting next Saturday to discuss the issue.
"It is a serious problem throughout the country," he said.
Deputy Kenny said he was disappointed with Minister Richard Bruton's response that any scheme had to be applied uniformly around the country and that a special scheme could not be designed for Leitrim.
“That was not what I was looking for from the Minister. This is a problem in rural areas all over the country and I hoped that some flexibility could be introduced to the matter," said Deputy Kenny.