Hearing between Department of Education and Western Bulding Systems to take place next month

Hearing between Department of Education and Western Bulding Systems to take place next month
File image of the exterior of Tyrrelstown Educate Together School in Dublin. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A court hearing between the Department of Education and the Co-Tyrone based company that constructed a series of schools discovered to have fire and structural problems is to take place next month.

A hearing between the department and Western Building Systems (WBS) is to take place on December 2 in the Commercial Court, the Minister for Education confirmed.

“That will be specific to the Educate Together School in Tyrrelstown and Ardgillan [Community College]," Minister Joe McHugh said.

In October 2018, the Educate Together in Tyrrelstown was shut for a number of weeks after structural problems were discovered during an investigation. Part of Ardgillan remains closed.

“That work being led by the Attorney General is ongoing," Minister McHugh added. "Certainly, I've been consistent in saying that's where responsibility lies, responsibility should be followed up.

And that's why we're taking this through the commercial courts.” WBS has previously insisted it is not at fault for any errors in the sites.

It said:

Every school we have ever built was assessed and certified by the [Department of Education]. Yet the Department alone is now deeming some of these schools defective. Evidence of defects has never been published.

Meanwhile, new school builds will not be affected by the costs of fixing a series of serious fire and structural problems at dozens of schools across the country, according to the Minister of Education.

As previously reported by the Irish Examiner, the repair costs of fixing and surveying 40 schools built by Western Building Systems have reached €40m to date. The Department of Education has ring-fenced €8.8bn up to 2027 specifically for new builds, according to Minister McHugh.

"We're going to have 60 major buildings which were identified earlier in this term to ensure that we’ll have over 30,000 new permanent and additional accommodation," he said.

"The work program that we've had in place will continue to go ahead," he added. The department also has a contingency plan in place, he added.

Of the 40 schools constructed by WBS, built during the Celtic Tiger era's rapid building programme, 14 schools are understood to have been completely fixed.

Remediation work on a further eight schools is due to begin in the new year. Plans have also been put in place for a further 17 schools, where work is due to begin by next summer. However, the defects identified in these 17 schools are understood to not be as severe as in the first 22.

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