‘No material delay’ to opening of schools caught up in construction firm collapse

Concern voiced over future of six school buildings following firm’s liquidation

Loreto College’s new school building in  Wexford. It had been due to move its 750 pupils to the new   facility towards the middle of next week. Photo: Loreto College, Wexford.

Loreto College’s new school building in Wexford. It had been due to move its 750 pupils to the new facility towards the middle of next week. Photo: Loreto College, Wexford.

 

State authorities say they do not expect any significant delay to the completion of six school building projects following the collapse of a UK construction firm.

Carillion, a construction and services firm which employs thousands of people across the UK and Ireland, is facing liquidation after its lenders refused to provide any further financial support.

The closure has thrown hundreds of building projects into doubt, including the delivery of five schools and one college of further education in Ireland.

Carillion is a key member of a consortium which is delivering these projects under a State-funded public private partnership programme.

The school buildings are approximately 90 per cent complete. In at least one case - Loreto College, Wexford - it was due to open next week.

Other school building projects affected include coláiste Ráithín, Bray; St. Philomena’s Primary School, Bray; Eureka Secondary School, Kells; Tyndall College, Carlow; and Carlow Institute of Further Education.

However, the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), which is managing the building contracts, said in a statement on Monday afternoon that it did “not envisage material disruption or delay to the works.”

A spokesman said it was “actively monitoring the position in the context of the robust contractual protections provided for under the public private partnership contract.”

He said the estimated capital value of the contracts was about €100 million.

“To date, the State has made a payment of €4 million in respect of off-site works. The State is not obliged to make any further payment until the full works and services set out under the contract have been satisfactorily delivered for each school,” he added.

Unsure

Loreto College, Wexford, had been due to move its 750 pupils to its new school building towards the middle of next week.

Principal Billy O’Shea said he was now unsure when the school would be in a position to move as Carillion was contractually due to maintain it for the next 25 years.

“I’ve been working on this project for the past 19 years. This is just the latest setback, but I’m very confident that the good offices of the Department of Education and the NDFA will find a way through this,” he said.

“The money is there, the school is substantially built. This is just a small jigsaw piece which has fallen out, but it’s in good hands.”

An NDFA spokesman said the public private partnership contract included detailed provisions that apply in the event of the liquidation of a consortium member. These were aimed at ensuring the project proceeds on a “business as usual” basis with minimal disruption.

Carillion was the lead consortium member and a 50 per cent shareholder in a special purpose vehicle responsible for delivery of the school buildings.

The other 50 per cent shareholder is Dutch Infrastructure Fund BV. The NDFA said it was liaising with the company in relation to the next steps.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton told reporters on Monday he was confident the NDFA would be in a position resolve any uncertainty over the school buildings.

However, he said he could not give any categoric statement until the process is complete .

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne called on Mr Bruton to act “swiftly and decisively” to address uncertainty over the project.s

“One school, in my own constituency of Meath East, Eureka Secondary School in Kells, is due to open in a matter of weeks, but as a result of the difficulties at Carillion, there is doubt as to when it might happen , and who will provide the facilities management and catering services in the school,” he said.