Shannon Airport’s inclusion in the €30 million Regional Airports Programme; a reduction in the pupil/teacher ratio in primary schools and a range of supports for local businesses are among the measures in Tuesday’s budget that will have a significant impact on Clare workers and their families.

That’s according to Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey who said that the budget delivered the means to effect major improvements at all levels of the education sector, particularly in the area of special needs which he had campaigned for over several years.

“The €2.6 billion allocation for special needs education is the largest ever in the history of the State. It allows for an additional 370 new Special classes, giving 2,000 more children access to a place along with a €13 million increase in the budget for the National Council for Special Education,” he explained.  

“The number of Special Needs Assistants will rise by nearly 1,200, bringing the overall total to more than 20,000 – which is almost double the number of SNAs in 2011 when Fine Gael came into office.

“From next September, all primary school children will receive free school books and the budget also reduces the teacher pupil ratio at primary school with an additional 660 new primary and post-primary teachers to support schools in rural areas.

“We are also helping students and families with the cost of going to college, by both cutting fees and raising the student grant.

“The Student Contribution Fee will be reduced by between €500 and €1,500 for 58,000 families from next year and, in recognition of the rising cost of living, it will be reduced by €1000 in this academic year. This will help 96,000 families.

All student grants will be increased in January and recipients will get a double payment in December. Fees for apprentices are also being reduced and with supports for an additional 4,000 apprenticeship places, there will be a range of career choices and ways to reach a qualification through earning and learning for young people.”

Referring to Shannon Airport’s inclusion in the Regional Airports Programme, Deputy Carey said that he was determined to ensure that this would be retained over the coming years.

“Shannon met the criteria for inclusion under the current Irish Aviation policy by virtue of the fact that its passenger numbers were under one million. That policy is currently under review and I am campaigning to have the criteria extended to three million passengers, as is the case in other EU countries,” he explained.

“The Regional Airports Programme is of particular benefit to Shannon as it finances infrastructural projects such as the new security screening system and frees up funding for other activities in the operational and marketing areas.

“I am also pressing to have Shannon included in the Public Service Obligation (PSO) scheme for regional airports through the development of a connecting service to Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam which is a major European aviation hub,” Deputy Carey added.

He went on to say that the measures introduced in the budget to support local businesses and jobs would be particularly relevant for small and medium enterprises throughout Clare.

“The past two years have been extremely challenging for business owners and the budget has targeted those enterprises that are vulnerable but viable.

“The €1.2 billion Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme will operate through Revenue across a six-month period with businesses receiving the first payment in November while the €200 million Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme will help firms operating in the manufacturing and internationally traded services sector.

“The overarching additional €36 million allocated to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, supports crucial investment in digitalisation and the green economy”, Deputy Carey concluded.