The importance of access to education for all was stressed in Leinster House last week with Deputy Ó Murchú highlighting how his family have benefitted from various routes through second and third level.
There was some light-hearted ribbing between the Sinn Féin TD and Fine Gael Minister for Higher Education, Simon Harris, after Deputy Ó Murchú revealed that his nieces presented a tie to Minister Harris during a graduation ceremony at Coláiste Chú Chulainn this week.
Deputy Ó Murchú said: ‘My nieces, Makayla and Leah, now have more pictures with the Minister than they do with me. They were there to facilitate the graduation and I am told they presented the Minister with a tie.
‘My son, Conor, attends another Louth and Meath Education and Training Board, LMETB, school, Ó Fiaich College.
‘I have to thank to it for the work it has done. Our Conor, a bit like myself, has taken a circuitous route in his schooling. However, he has seen my stepson, Aaron, do a post-leaving certificate course in Ó Fiaich College and go on to DkIT.
‘That is a route map. Those are the sort of route maps on which we very much need to work. It is incredibly important.
‘I have spoken to the Minister before about possible projects such as the Redeemer centre, where people may feel more comfortable in starting certain modules before they go to Ó Fiaich College or other institutes. That is vital’.
Deputy Ó Murchú also raised the issue of TU status for Dundalk IT and the need to ensure that ‘nothing hampers us on that road’.
He added that workforce planning is ‘vital’ in the third level education system, particularly in relation to ensuring there are enough occupational and speech and language therapists for disability services.
He said: ‘What needs to happen relatively fast is in terms of the cheaper rate for public transport that has been introduced. We need notification of it for the likes of private operators, such as Matthews Coaches, which many people use for third level. Knowing that as early as possible prior to the new academic year is absolutely necessary’.
In response, Minister Harris said: ‘It was a pleasure to meet Deputy Ó Murchú’s nieces. The school very kindly presented me with this tie, which I promised I would wear in the Dáil.
‘We all had a laugh, on an occasion of celebration, about a member of the family of a Sinn Féin Deputy having to get a photograph with a Fine Gael Minister.
‘It was a very pleasant night and it was very nice to meet the Deputy’s family. I did not try to politically convert them and I do not believe I would have been successful anyway.
‘However, it was lovely to be in the school. I pay tribute to the Príomhoide, Mr. Tomás Sharkey, who is well known to the Deputy. He is an excellent Principal and is held in very high regard by the community’.