Rural communities directly affected by cutbacks to services will have to ‘fight together’ in order to have a better chance of reversing those decisions according to an Erris based councillor.
Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh made the comments following a meeting of Ballycroy parents who were informed that children who start secondary school in September will not be eligible for free school transport if they attend school in Belmullet.
Parents were informed by Bus Éireann that to be eligible for free transport their children will have to go to school in Achill instead. Traditionally children from the north end of Ballycroy parish went to school in Belmullet while those in the southern end went to Achill.
The decision to change the eligibility comes from the ‘Closest School Rule’ which was introduced following a review of the School Transport Scheme in 2009.
Cllr Conway-Walsh told The Mayo News that the decision to implement this review was having serious consequences on rural communities like Ballycroy and stressed they had to join together to build a stronger case of retaining their services.
“We are looking to join up with other community groups in the county and the country who have been affected by the review of the scheme. I don’t think this scheme and its changes takes into account the effect it has on rural parishes like Ballycroy. We will have to fight together because the cuts to services which the government are trying to make are targeting rural Ireland and affecting rural families and communities,” she said.
There was a large attendance at the meeting in the Ballycroy Community Centre with parents voicing their anger at the lack of education choice being made available to their children as a result. Approximately 30 pupils from Ballycroy travel by bus to school in Belmullet with the majority eligible for free transport. Families will have to pay €350 per child in September if they choose to send them on the Belmullet bus.
A decision was made on the night to prepare a business plan which they hope to present to the Minister of State at the Department of Education, Ciarán Cannon who is responsible for school transport. Cllr Conway-Walsh said she hoped the Minister would ‘see sense’ and reverse the decision but added the Ballycroy community will fight on regardless.
A further meeting will take place in the Ballycroy Com-munity Centre on Monday, June 11.
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