Schools that want Hepa filters in ‘given situations’ will get funds, Taoisach says

Minister for Education adopting ‘a targeted approach’ to address ventilation issues

Funding will be available for schools that want Hepa filters in “given situations”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said the Minister for Education and her department are adopting “a targeted approach” to address ventilation issues. He said there are 50,000 classrooms across primary and secondary schools and he believed filters of “sufficient quality and grade” would cost between €1,500 to €1,800.

“Funding is there and will be provided for it [HEPA filters], where it’s necessary. It may not be necessary in every classroom,” he said.

Mr Martin was addressing Leaders’ Questions in the Dail on Tuesday, where Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said almost two years into the Covid-19 pandemic the Government “still hasn’t delivered a plan for proper ventilation”.


Ms McDonald said there are children and teaching staff who have been “freezing in classrooms” wearing hats and scarves during the school day “with windows wide open in an attempt to keep them safe”. The Dublin Central TD said the rate of infection among school aged children has “shot up” in recent months

“It’s been clear for some time that Hepa filters have an important role to play in ensuring schools have clean air. They remove contaminants and viruses from the air and help reduce airborne transmission in classrooms with poor ventilation,” Ms McDonald said. “The World Health Organisation, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, and indeed, the Government’s own expert group on ventilation have all emphasised the value of Hepa filters in keeping schools safe.

“Yet, instead of listening to this expert advice and installing Hepa filters in schools, the Government’s approach is as you put it Taoiseach in a press conference on Friday, you said to ‘open the windows and that’. Parents and school staff must have been shaking their heads in disbelief.”

Mr Martin said the Minister for Education has at all times adhered to expert advice in respect of ventilation and that the advice was where possible, fresh air is “the most effective form of ventilation”. He stressed that schools will be, “ if they wish and if it is suitable” to buy Hepa filters for classrooms. “I would point out if you look at Sage [the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] for example, Sage’s advice on Hepa filters, which is the expert body in the UK, they’re saying there’s a need for better data on real world application to support these technologies,” he said. “It may be a viable solution in spaces where it’s difficult to find good ventilation and it’s saying a lot of the application of the filters will depend on the configuration of rooms and certain situations.

“The point I would this that I’ve noticed throughout the course of the pandemic, every now and again someone comes up with the magic solution. Invariably there is no one magic silver bullet to do with Covid.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times