Covid-19 protocols around school closures may be amended if necessary - Taoiseach

Micheál Martin says ‘we cannot have position where every school makes its own decision’

Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh said that only seven of 85 students due in the school on Monday turned up for classes. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh said that only seven of 85 students due in the school on Monday turned up for classes. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The protocols around public health guidance on school closures will be amended or refined if necessary in the wake of the controversy over a Co Mayo school but the Taoiseach said “there must be a system”.

Micheál Martin said the Government would evaluate what happened at Claremorris National Boys’ school and if protocols needed to be amended “that’s fine”.

But he warned: “We cannot have a position where every school will make its own decision”.

There is and should be local engagement between principals and public health personnel, but “we must ultimately defer to public health guidelines”.

Sinn Féin Mayo TD Rose Conway-Walsh criticised the Department of Education’s “heavy-handed” approach to the school which was instructed to remain open after it announced last Thursday that it was closing until January 5th because of more than a dozen confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Ms Conway-Walsh said that only seven of 85 students due in the school on Monday turned up for classes.

She said the department and Minister’s approach to the school was “wholly unacceptable”.

She said that “nobody disputes the public health advice but removing the collective autonomy of all the local decision-makers without proper consultation is not acceptable.

“The heavy-handed approach by the Department must be replaced with local and effective engagement,” and the “interface” between the department and the HSE had to be examined.

Mr Martin, who said there had to be a system pointed out that “the public health team had not recommended that the school should close. There must be a system.”

“We will evaluate what has happened here and if protocols must be amended or refined, that is fine,” he said.

But he added: “The public health personnel had not recommended that the school should close”.

And he said “we cannot have a position where every school will make its own decision”.

“We must ultimately defer to public health guidelines. Nationally, and from a societal perspective, we want our schools open and children back in school safely.”