School Cabs Cost Thousands
The Department of Education and Skills has been paying an estimated €1,800 a week to transport two West Clare teenagers with special needs by taxi to a school in Ennis because of the lack of a suitable educational facility in their locality.
Isabelle Sequin, 14, who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and epilepsy, up to the recent end of term had been completing a round trip of 130 kilometers three days a week, while her twin sister, Clara attended St. Joseph’s Community College in Kilkee.
During the school year, Isabelle stays in an Enable Ireland house on Wednesday nights to try and reduce the impact on her condition of traveling from Carrigaholt to St. Clare’s in Ennis. The same taxi collects a second pupil with ASD from Moyasta, while it is understood yet another pupil is picked up along the way to Ennis.
Isabelle’s father Pat Gavin has hit out at the cost of transporting students from West Clare to Ennis and feels this money would be far better spent in providing a fully resourced special needs unit in Kilkee, which would mean teenagers with special needs would have the option of attending a local secondary school.
A Department of Education spokesman said in the context of post-primary provision in Clare, the National Council for Special Education has had further discussions with a post-primary school with a view to establishing a special class, and the local special needs organizer in the area will continue to progress the issue. However, he said that a special class will not be established before September 2011.
“I think it is disgraceful that about €1,800 is being spent on school transport by the Department of Education. Regardless of who is paying this figure, it is taxpayers’ money, which could be better spent providing an education for teenagers with special needs in West Clare,” Gavin said.
Gavin has urged Education Minister Ruairi Quinn to honor a commitment made by his predecessor, to establish a special needs unit in Kilkee for September 2011.
Where Are the Curlews?
The once familiar cry of the Curlew in Donegal’s bog and moorlands could be a thing of the past as numbers of the birds have fallen dramatically in recent years.
It was estimated just two decades ago that there was up to 5,000 Curlew in Ireland, but a special survey just completed by Birdwatch Ireland’s Letterkenny office shows that the county, which had been a popular breeding ground for the birds, now has just four pairs.
Change in habitats use, including the introduction of wind farms and increased forestry, is cited among the reasons for the rapid decline, but Birdwatch Ireland’s Dr. Anita Donaghy says they are seeking the public’s help to help identify more of the nesting birds in the region.
“We have counted a really, really low number of them and we think they are on the verge of extinction in the county. They are a ground nesting bird in open moorland so their habitat is a bit different to that of the Corncrake. We are trying to get people more aware of them and we would love to get more reports in,” she said.
Due to the decline in number of both Curlew and Corncrakes, Birdwatch Ireland established a Letterkenny office that is staffed by Donaghy.
“Donegal is a great county for wildlife and birds in particular. There are a lot of things happening here and it was just important for us to have a presence here,” she said, adding that it is clear now the bird numbers are in “crisis.”
“We have known for a while that the population has been in decline but we didn’t realize how bad it was. Previous estimates would have been in the range of 4,000 to 5,000 25-years-ago, but now we think there is less than a couple of hundred pairs in the whole country.
“This is the first time we have gone out and done a proper survey specifically for Curlew and if the results from Donegal are indicative of what’s happening in the rest of the country then they are in a very serious situation,” Donaghy added.
Missing Grave Angels
Callous thieves stole two stone angels from a grave in St. Mary's Cemetery in Carlow, leading a heartbroken mother to plead for their return.
The woman, who didn't want to be named, said that the angels are irreplaceable and desperately wants them back.
They adorned the graves of her two children, her son who was killed off a motorbike six years ago at the age of 37, and her daughter who died in infancy.
“It's bad enough having to bury your children without someone coming along and taking something that belongs to you,” she said. “I don't know how anyone could do that.”
The angels were among five such figures that decorate the family grave but for some reason, the thieves took just the smallest two of the collection.
“I'll never be able to get the same angels again because the shop where I bought them is now closed,” the woman said. “The thought of anyone going near the grave is sickening.”