Newstalk
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14.30 16 Feb 2021


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The Education Minister Norma Foley has told the Cabinet she is planning for a phased return to school for all students next month.

March 1st has been set as a target date, but opposition politicians are skeptical that is achievable.

On Tuesday morning, Minister Foley told her Cabinet colleagues she is planning for schools to return in less than two weeks time on a phased basis.

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But this still has to be agreed with teaching unions with talks ongoing.

It is expected the phased return will happen next month.

But Labour's education spokesman Aodhán Ó Ríordáin says he is not convinced it will be March 1st.

"I hope that she's correct, I heard a different date yesterday.

"If we are opening on the first of March, well then we want it to be done in a safe manner.

"But we cannot divorce the school re-opening discussion from the wider discussion about the suppression of the virus".

Deputy Ó Ríordáin has previously said he does not want to see schools re-open just for them to close again.

"Everybody wants the schools to go back - I want the schools to go back - school closure is profoundly damaging for children and for young people.

"However there's no point in opening up schools if we close them again a few weeks afterwards."

He said the real issue was down to suppression of the coronavirus.

"We have to be very serious about what the real issue here is: [it's] not people on either side of tables in the Department of Education, it's actually the virus."

While education spokesman for the Social Democrats, Gary Gannon, says dates are not the right deadlines.

"In the past we've been let down by dates: they give a date and then we don't meet the date.

"What I'd actually like to see from the Department of Education and the Minister is a metric about what level, when we're at a certain level of numbers, can our schools re-open.

"That for me would give much more certainty".

Cabinet was also updated on the talks around this year's Leaving Certificate with it hoped a resolution will be reached later this week.

While Cabinet also approved legislation for mandatory hotel quarantine for people arriving to Ireland from certain countries, which will go before the Dáil on Thursday.

Reporting by Sean Defoe

Main image: Norma Foley, Fianna Fáil Minister for Education, leaving a Cabinet meeting in Dublin Castle in November 2020. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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