School Transport Refunds To Be Issued From Today

Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara has received confirmation from the Department of Education that school transport refunds will be issued on a staged basis over the next six weeks.

Responding to a Parliamentary Question by Deputy McNamara on the matter, Minister Norma Foley confirmed that Bus Éireann will from today (30 June) commence issuing refunds to families who are due to receive a refund for the unused portion of their ticket for the period of school closures arising from public health measures/Covid-19 restrictions in the 2020/2021 school year.

Deputy McNamara, who first raised the issue of refunds with Minister Foley in Dáil Éireann on 3rd March has welcomed the news.

“This is the correct decision by the Department of Education as thousands of parents will have paid in advance for transport to schools which were shut through no fault of their own or the Minister,” he stated.

Deputy McNamara added, “The refund due for each primary school student is €31, with the figure rising to €108.50 per post primary school student. From today, families will receive an email from Bus Éireann if they are eligible for a refund. The refund will be automatically made to the bank card used to make the payment, or by cheque if a card wasn’t used. Bus Éireann says refunds will be issued to all entitled family account holders starting from 30th June until mid-August.”

In response to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question, Minister Foley confirmed, “School Transport is a significant operation managed by Bus Éireann on behalf of the Department of Education. In the current school year over 114,100 children, including over 14,700 children with special educational needs, are transported on a daily basis to primary and post-primary schools throughout the country at a cost of over €224.7m in 2020.”

Further information is available from the Bus Éireann website at

Rising construction costs and social housing income thresholds

In Dáil Éireann today, Clare Independent T.D. Michael McNamara called on Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien to change the income limits for eligibility for social housing to enable working families to apply in circumstances where obtaining a mortgage is beyond their reach.

During Priority Questions to the Minister, Deputy McNamara also highlighted the growing cost of construction materials and its subsequent impact on house building across County Clare.

Speaking on the issue of social housing, Deputy McNamara said the current assessment of housing applicants was overly restrictive.

“As the threshold is currently set in Clare, if two people in a household are working or even if just one person is working and is just a little over the minimum wage, those people are not entitled to go on the social housing list,” he explained. “Effectively, only people in receipt of social welfare can get social housing in Clare because of where the limits are set I have no problem with people in receipt of social welfare getting social housing but it should not be limited to that because it will cause ghettoisation of social housing, which nobody thinks is a good thing, and there is a disincentive to work, especially when it is low-paid work.”

“We need to look at those income thresholds for the sake of society and housing in Clare, to even get back to where we were in the 1980s,” Deputy McNamara informed the Dáil.

Meanwhile, Deputy McNamara also asked if the Department has consulted the construction sector regarding the growing impact on housing construction on the shortage and inflating cost of timber.

“House building is becoming increasingly expensive. There is huge material inflation, especially, but not just, in timber. This affects one-off builds, but it also affects the capacity of local authorities to deliver houses,” stated Deputy McNamara.

He added, “Small one-off builders and self-builders are important to the supply of housing in Ireland, particularly in rural areas. Accessing materials is increasingly difficult as the supply is drying up. A simple length of 4″ X 2″ was €8 last year and is now €13. One of the main builder’s suppliers in Clare is no longer stocking timber. Builders will not give quotes of more than a month’s duration because of inflation in the cost of supplies. I refer not just to timber, but to materials generally?”

“There is a lot of timber growing in Ireland and much of that is past the point of maturity. Many landowners across Clare are looking for felling licences. There is chaos in the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, particularly in its forestry section. I would ask the Minister of State to speak with Senator Hackett, who is the Minister of State with responsibility for this, and tell her to get things moving,” stated Deputy McNamara.

Responding to Deputy McNamara about the rising cost of building materials, Minister O’Brien said, “There have been material increases in timber, plastics and metals, some of it Covid-related and some of it Suez-related and supply chain-related. This is being monitored by the Department’s market surveillance unit. The increases we are seeing could be temporary, but we are monitoring the situation. The Deputy asked if this has an effect on delivery. There is no question that it does.”

NPHET and Rapid Antigen Testing

NPHET’s confirmation that it hasn’t even discussed the Government-commissioned Report of the Covid Rapid Testing Group and its reluctance to accept the EU Commission’s common list of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests demonstrate an intent to maintain Ireland’s outlier position on international travel and antigen testing compared to other EU states.