'Priority is the child in the classroom' says Micheál Martin ahead of school reopening plans

'Priority is the child in the classroom' says Micheál Martin ahead of school reopening plans
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said good progress was being made in school reopening plans. Picture : Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that discussions are going well on the reopening of schools with a lot of detailed work underway.

The Government will be in a position next week to announce comprehensive measures designed to enable schools to reopen.

The Taoiseach said there was a Government-wide commitment and across the education sector to open schools safely. 

“The priority is the child in the classroom,” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“There are challenges, we want to do it safely. We are in a relatively good space.” 

Mr Martin said that as a former teacher and Minister for Education the development of the child was key and the Government did not want to limit children's development by keeping them out of school.

The Minister for Education Norma Foley was working on a significant package of supports to enable schools to reopen which will be announced next week, he said. 

The reopening of schools will be a significant milestone in dealing with Covid-19.

The Taoiseach defended the July stimulus plan, describing it as a significant and powerful stimulus designed to ensure companies can stay intact and get through the coming months.

The extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the PUP were the key planks of the scheme and combined with commercial rates relief, grants initiative and a reduction in VAT will give businesses “more than a fighting chance.” 

The plan will give hope and confidence and a degree of certainty to businesses who have shown they are committed to staying in business. The Government will work to keep the fabric of the Irish economy intact over the coming months, he said.

“This plan will work and it’s designed to be brought in immediately, but the Government will continue to oversee it.” 

When asked about the stay and spend tax credit, Mr Martin said the primary purpose of it was to support the hospitality sector. 

“We want to do it with speed, that's why this particular model has been chosen.” 

 On the decision to delay the reopening of pubs, he claimed it indicated the Government’s determination, saying: “This sent a strong message to the public that we can’t be complacent about this virus.” 

Mr Martin denied the suggestion that his leadership had weakened in the first few weeks of the new Government because of internal wranglings in Fianna Fáil. 

He was focused on the substance of government, he said. Mr Martin said he was ignoring “the soap opera of politics” and was instead focused on policy and substance.

The most important thing he could do as Taoiseach was to keep his eye on the ball.

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