The Department of Education is facing a showdown with schools subcontractors who have been left out of pocket after the collapse of the British construction giant Carrillion and the Irish group Sammon.

Pickets were placed outside new school buildings in Wexford town and Bray, Co Wicklow, yesterday by subcontractors who have not been paid for the work they carried out.

Around €14m is owed to small firms and individual tradespeople following the collapse of Carrillion and the subsequent demise of the Irish group.

More than a dozen scaffolders, painters, carpenters, and landscapers protested outside Loreto Secondary School in Wexford, while a number of contractors placed pickets on Eureka Secondary School in Kells, Co Meath.

They are two of five schools and one college that Sammon Contracting Ireland Ltd had been building as part of a public-private partnership led by Carillion, when the British company collapsed in January, owing creditors £7bn.

Sammon went into liquidation early last month, blaming losses it incurred from the collapse of Carrillion.

The two schools being picketed are nearing completion, but the subcontractors have said they will not allow them to open until they have been paid.

The Department of Education has said that while the situation faced by the sub-contractors was regrettable, it is not and was not party to any contract with them.

In a statement, the department said that the subcontractors’ contractual relationship was with Sammon, which in turn had been contracted by Carillion Construction Ltd, the main contractor under the PPP arrangement.

The statement also noted that, at the end of December 2017, Carillion had confirmed to the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), which procured the project on behalf of the State, that Sammon had been paid in full in accordance with the contract to that point and that there were no issues arising.

The department said that while the situation faced by the sub-contractors was very difficult, it would be regrettable if there were further delays in the opening of the schools.

Neither the Department nor the NDFA have information on the detailed contractual and payment arrangements between Sammon and its subcontractors,” said the statement.

“These matters were agreed exclusively between the private parties, as is the norm on any school building or public works contract. Sammon is now the subject of statutory liquidation proceedings and therefore engagement with Sammon’s creditors is the responsibility of the court-appointed liquidator.”

Three weeks ago, Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF), the other main partner in the schools building project, appointed Omagh, Co Tyrone-based Woodvale as a replacement contractor.

The Department of Education said DIF is working to ensure that the five schools and one college that form part of Schools Bundle 5 can be opened as soon as possible.

“Woodvale, has been appointed by DIF to facilitate the completion of the three most advanced schools in Wexford and Bray by the end of August and to undertake survey and preliminary work at the other three buildings in Carlow and Kells,” said a spokesperson for the department.

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