Breathnach attacked over "secrecy" in exam controversy


THE watchword of the Minister for Education, Ms Breathnach, was secrecy rather than openness", especially in the controversy over the 1995 Leaving Certificate art examination, Fianna Fail's education spokesman, Mr Micheiil Martin, said. The Minister had refused to come before the Dail to answer "simple, straightforward questions" on the issue. "She is hiding behind the Price Waterhouse inquiry and buying time in the hope that by the time of its publication interest in the matter will have waned."

Even at this stage the Minister did not have proper or effective management procedures in place to ensure that she would have been alerted early enough about the error and able to take remedial action much sooner.

"What has happened to the students involved is inexcusable. They and their parents were treated most shabbily."

There was a very strong case for the appointment of an Education Ombudsman to represent citizens in their dealings with the Department, Mr Martin said.

The party's spokeswoman on health, Mrs Maire Geoghegan Quinn, told the conference that suicide had now become a major public health problem. She called for a national suicide prevention strategy.

"Official figures suggest that around 500 people a year commit suicide but the actual numbers could be much higher," she said. The statistics showed that one in five deaths among young men between 15 and 24 arose from suicide.