In 2002, Bertie Ahern’s Fianna Fáil famously went to the people under the banner of ‘A lot done. More to do’.
n Monday, as Norma Foley announced the Government’s €375million plan to get schools back open in a month’s time, that famous party slogan may well have crossed the Education Minister’s mind.
The last few weeks have not been easy for the first-time Tralee TD, who has come in for a barrage of criticism – much of it based on her lack of experience – since she took the reins at the Department of Eduction.
Last week she was at the centre of a furore over the delay to the Leaving Cert results, a problem not of her making but one which saw the former teacher rounded on by critics.
Monday’s announcement, of a plan for which Ms Foley was wholly responsible, represented both a major test for the Minister and a chance for her to prove her mettle. These are very early days, and there is a long way to go but, thus far, Minister Foley looks to have passed her first major test as one of the most senior office holders in cabinet.
While there has been criticism of the short time-frame involved – with many questioning whether measures in the plan such as hiring thousands of additional teachers can be carried out so quickly – it has been broadly well received.
Most importantly it has gained the overall backing of the main teaching unions who – though also concerned about the time-frame – have signalled their support for the plan.
While the lack of communication from the Department and Minister Foley in recent weeks has been widely castigated, it would appear that Minister Foley and her team have been extremely busy behind the scenes. The plan they have come up with has its flaws – which is understandable given the bizarre circumstances we now live in – but it is far reaching and comprehensive.
Given the money involved, it also sends a signal that the Government is serious about getting children back to schools and won’t be cutting any corners. The re-opening of schools will be a make-or-break moment for the Government and Minister Foley. So far it appears to be going well.