Monaghan students said more than Kenny wished to mention

Schoolchildren set the record straight over Taoiseach’s water charge reference

If the object of the lesson was to fairly summarise the views of a classroom full of bright young pupils, then Enda Kenny’s report card may tell him there’s room for improvement.

In the Dáil this week, the Taoiseach referenced letters he received from the students at St Michael's national school in Stranooden, Co Monaghan, whose views offered a junior plebiscite on the water debate.

"Young children," Mr Kenny told Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams during leaders' questions, "said big people do not know how to save water. These water meters are very good. It will mean there will be far less money spent on wasting water."

The views of the boys and girls in fifth and sixth class, he told Mr Adams, demonstrated “a far better view than Sinn Féin appear to have”.


Great excitement

Even if it just took a minute, the reference and being acknowledged in the Dáil, caused great excitement at St Michael’s.

As sixth class pupil Ciara Fanning (11) put it: “We have been mentioned in something really important in Ireland and people listen.”

They do, but they were only listening to the bits Mr Kenny liked the sound of, apparently. These articulate children had set out their thoughts on numerous subjects, even congratulating him on raising the price of cigarettes.

"It was a 50-50 split between the children who were in favour of the charges and those who weren't," said their teacher and principal, Richard Baxter.

“The Taoiseach picked up on the ones who were. I thought it was cute enough politicking. The other kids thought there is enough water in the country as it’s always raining. Why would they have to pay for it?”

Most of the students were happy simply to have the leader mention them in the house of Government.

St Michael’s NS is a small rural school in the Corcaghan parish just outside Monaghan town and the students are mainly from farming backgrounds.

Local fundraising

The school, visited by Mr Kenny in 1986, was rebuilt in 2002 with local fundraising.

This is the world that reflects the many other issues raised by its children.

“The road is really busy and we sometimes go to Mass because the church is across the road,” said Alannah Keelan (11) of her concerns on safety.

Tilly Cousley (10) asked Mr Kenny about improving broadband: “Some people have great internet and some people in the country don’t have any.”

Jamie Coyle (11) said of water charges: “People might not have enough money to pay for them and stuff like that.”

But Tegan McPhillips (11) said they were necessary: “Other countries are not as fortunate because they don’t have much water, or [they have] dirty water and we shouldn’t waste it.”

And Tim McGuinness (11) said the charges are “a good thing because if people have to pay for the water they won’t waste it so much.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times