Cavan Institute needs ‘greenfield site’ - Smyth

“I am at a loss to understand why we have not seen movement from the Department on this,” said Cavan-Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD, Niamh Smyth, in respect of the urgent need for investment in a new building for Cavan Institute.

Speaking in the Dáil last week, she expressed “disappointment” that Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris, who previously visited the local college last September, was not present in the chamber to hear her comments.

“This is a college that has exceeded itself and that is a victim of its success,” said Deputy Smyth, noting that, while the “facilities it has are wonderful”, a new development on a greenfield site is what's needed.

“This building has been on the buildings' list since 2015. It is not the only college of its kind; I have done some research and there are other education and training boards, ETBs, with the same type of problems. There is no logical reason, when it has been approved and sanctioned and when due diligence has taken place, that it has not been given the green light.”

While appreciating the announcement made last September that modular classrooms are to be erected within the Dun Uí Neill Barracks complex, necessary after the ETB allowed a legacy lease to lapse on outdated accommodation at St Clare's in the centre of Cavan Town, Deputy Smyth said: “The college does not need to look for a site; it is on a greenfield site, which is ideally located in the centre of the town. There is nothing to stop this project except commitment from the Government to do this.”

Hitting out at rents currently being paid by the ETB for Institute-used properties, the local deputy said “one of the buildings is costing €250,000. Another is €55,000 and another is €85,000”.

She added: “That is all rent that could be so much better used in terms of having a permanent facility.”

Minister of State at the Department of Health, Anne Rabbitte, responded to Deputy Smyth’s statement, and with tongue firmly in cheek, jibing at the situation: “If there was good news the Minister, Deputy Harris, would be here. It would not be wee Anne from Galway delivering it.”

She acknowledged that Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB) had requested capital investment from the Department previously to relocate its Further Education and Training (FET) operations from Main Street and Cootehill Road to the barracks site.

Funding was approved in August of this year for works associated with delivery of this “interim” accommodation. The project is being progressed by the ETB, with discussions ongoing with the modular unit provider, reported Deputy Rabbitte.

As a former chair of the Galway and Roscommon ETB, Deputy Rabbitte stated: “Sometimes we have to look at what is left on the leases. Maybe that is a stumbling block, as to what length is left on the leases and whether they are able to come out of the leases. In all fairness, they have a site.

“There is a willingness from the Government to come totally on board. Other than the fact that we have issues regarding containers or whatever, I do not understand why we are not progressing it further.”

Regarding the issue of leases, Deputy Smyth concluded in reply: “I want to see the right decision made. No more taxpayers’ money of nearly half a million euro should be wasted annually because some of the buildings they are renting are not fit for purpose and are in a poor state.”