School building review promised in November yet to start, McHugh says
Minister tells of concern that initiative could affect legal process in relation to structural defects in buildings
A file image of builders carrying out remedial work at St Luke’s National School in Tyrrelstown, Dublin after structural defects were identified. File photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins.
A promised review of the Department of Education’s ‘design and build’ policy has not yet started but will be set-up by the end of the month, Minister for Education Joe McHugh has said.
The review was promised in November in the wake of the controversy over fire safety and other building issues in a number of schools which resulted in temporary closures and further investigations.
Mr McHugh said full investigations had been completed on eight of 22 schools where precautionary measures had been put in place. He said the remaining 14 would be completed by the end of May with the remediation works completed by year end.
However, remediation in up to 20 more schools which did not require initial precautionary measures will not be completed until next year, the Minister told Fianna Fáil education spokesman Thomas Byrne.
Mr McHugh said the “first priority” was schools that needed external and internal remediation work.
“It’s a question of resources, manpower and womanpower within our offices.”
All schools built by Western Building Systems under the department’s design and build policy were inspected after fire safety issues were found at a number of them.
The department has taken a legal case against the company over fire safety matters in relation to Ardgillan Community School which remains partially closed and the matter will be back before the Commercial Court in early May, Mr McHugh said.
Mr Byrne criticised the delay in the review and said it was “unacceptable that the Minister thought the issue would go away and that he continues to build schools under that programme”.
Mr McHugh told him that preparatory work to initiate the review was under way and included consultation with the Attorney General because they had to ensure the review did not compromise the legal process.
Tyrellstown Educate Together School and St Luke’s National School in west Dublin were temporarily closed after defects were found.
Labour TD for Dublin West Joan Burton said that St Luke’s had 650 pupils and staff have had to organise three separate small breaks and three large breaks for children because the school yard is closed off due to the remediation works.
She criticised the failure to provide a promised strip of land along the side of the school for a school yard, which Fingal County Council had promised, even though “the Taoiseach actually told the Minister to have this done”.
Mr McHugh said Ms Burton knew that was not the way things worked.
“Sometimes issues like this do not require a meeting or a major formal process but an individual talking to another individual,” he said.