are being forced to bypass their nearest schools due to Department of Education ''diktats.''
The Government has been accused of an anti rural bias in related cases in the Sligo Leitrim constituency.
Marc Mac Sharry has now condemned the Department and Bus Éireann for being complicit in facilitating the destruction of rural communities. He said this morning that ''the 'closest school' rule is being manipulated by the Dept of Education with the use of Bus Éireann to force rural communities to place their children in certain schools.''
In a statement, Mac Sharry said this was occurring in an era ''where Government are trumpeting their wish to rejuvenate rural communities.''
Instead, he claimed, ''they are facilitating and enforcing policies to force rural communities to place their children in certain schools by way of limiting school transport options. Not Choice
''This is counter productive and if continued will ensure the final nails in the coffin of rural communities. This is happening all over the country.
''In recent times we see examples of this manifest themselves where 27 families in the broader Ballinafad community are being forced through school transport diktats to chose schools a substantial distance away that are not their first choice rather than Coola Vocational School, which is on their door step. ''This may sit well with the centralisation and consolidation agenda of Government but it will exacerbate the demise of rural communities,'' said the Sligo TD today.
He offered another example in the constituency in south Leitrim, where a parish was being divided, with pupils of Gortletteragh National School are set to be sent to schools in a different province!
''The current rules are anti rural Ireland,'' said Mac Sharry this morning.
He said they were a further indictment of the ''FG and Varadkar plan to preserve our communities as little more than the weekend retreat for city dwellers'' while dismissing our traditions and our rights as equal citizens of Ireland.
Minister John Halligan said recently it would cost in the region of seven to ten million euro to revert to ''a much fairer system of school transport in rural Ireland such as that which existed as far back as 1971.''Decent Thing
Added Mac Sharry: ''It's a legitimate question to ask is the future of rural Ireland not worth at least that?
''I am calling on both the Minister of Education, and indeed the Dublin-centric Minister for Transport and Taoiseach Varadkar to do the decent thing and invest the very basics in what our rural communities are entitled to and need to survive.
Provide fair and reasonable School transport which supports our communities and their choice for their children's education.
The cost in doing so is nothing compared to the value to our communities, he felt.
Asked Mac Sharry: ''As equal citizens, surely we are entitled to expect no less.''