Garda vetting rules hold up reopening of south Dublin Gaelscoil

Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh has been closed for several days since heating system broke

Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh, Dublin, which has been closed since its heating system broke down this week. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh, Dublin, which has been closed since its heating system broke down this week. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A requirement for contractors to be Garda vetted has been cited as a key reason why a Gaelscoil in south Dublin has been closed for several days after its heating system broke down.

Parents of children attending Scoil Bhríde in Ranelagh were told on Tuesday that the school was being closed indefinitely.

While the Department of Education approved emergency funding to install a new heating system this week, sources close to the school say the school’s advice has been that children may not be left around unvetted contractors.

As a result the 440-pupil school has to remain closed while contractors are working on a temporary heating system in the hope the school can reopen in the coming days.

The Vetting Act obliges school authorities to obtain a vetting disclosure from the Garda prior to the employment of any individual, including contractors, in a school setting where there is access to children.

It typically takes several weeks for vetting applications to be processed. A school authority that breaches this requirement risks committing a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to €10,000 or a prison term of up to five years or both.

Sources say the school board did not want to close the school for repairs, but felt there was no other option despite the difficulty caused for working parents.

Temporary fix

The option of installing temporary heaters in classrooms has been ruled out due to concerns it would blow the fuses of the school, one of the oldest Gaelscoileanna in the country.

The school told parents in an email that it would remain closed until at least early next week.

Under department rules, schools are permitted to close for an indefinite period in the case of emergencies such as weather, broken heating systems or the deaths of teachers or pupils.

Schools, however, are required to seek to make up any lost teaching time during the school year or by taking shorter holidays.

The school did not respond to a request for comment, but sources said the principal, board and engineers have been working to resolve the issues as fast as possible.

In a statement, a Department of Education spokesman confirmed it received an application on Thursday from the school under the emergency works scheme to repair heating.

“The application was approved immediately. The decision to close the school was taken at a local level,” the spokesman added.

Corroded pipes

School sources say they received €250,000 in funding from the department under its emergency works scheme.

Corrosion of the pipes in the current system means the entire school’s heating system will need to be replaced.

This could takes weeks, so contractors have been working on installing a temporary solution.

Scoil Bhríde was set up in 1917 by Louise Gavan Duffy in St Stephen’s Green.

It moved to the grounds of Cullenswood House in Ranelagh in the 1960s and has 440 pupils.