Government to decide on action over school fire safety revelations

The Government is receiving legal advice on what action to take over revelations six Celtic Tiger-era schools have been found to have serious fire safety fears.

Government to decide on action over school fire safety revelations

Education Minister Richard Bruton confirmed his department is seeking advice in the wake of Friday’s decision to launch an urgent review of 25 more schools built during the same period.

On Friday, the department confirmed it was instigating an immediate review of the schools built under the 2008 rapid build programme.

The decision was taken after the department released five audits concluded last year into schools which were found to have serious fire safety concerns, launched after an October 2015 Irish Examiner investigation into a linked facility.

The six schools were built by Western Building Systems, based in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.

Western, which says it complied with all building rules, built 20 other schools across the country during the same period. It was also involved in the construction of a cystic fibrosis unit at Beaumont Hospital and state housing in Poppintree, Dublin, last year.

Mr Bruton said his first priority was to ensure the “safety of children, every teacher, every person” who is in the buildings.

Stressing that the schools are safe as vital repair work is being undertaken — some of which was called for by the department in May 2016 — Mr Bruton said the Government is taking legal advice on what action to take next.

“My department will be taking legal advice in relation to the queries we have had in these cases, but our first priority is for children’s safety,” he said.

“The issue of responsibility, and the experience and legal aspects that might arise from that, will be something to advise upon.

“The company has responsibilities and it is our job that it lives up to its responsibilities, and the department is taking that action and it will of course take legal advice in respect of the experience that has occurred here.”

Mr Bruton confirmed Western continues to receive government contracts, but defended the situation as “we must comply” with “very high” EU rules on barring a company from seeking the work.

Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been left with a minimum €1.3m bill for repairing the six Western-built fire safety issue schools, without counting the fact two of the facilities have been or will be completely replaced.

As previously revealed by the Irish Examiner, the taxpayer had to spend €800,000 to fix the Dublin-based Rush and Lusk Educate Together national school repairs before its planned future replacement.

Approximately €500,000 in public money is also being spent on repairing Mullingar Educate Together national school in Westmeath and Gaelscoil Clocha Liatha in Greystones, Wicklow.

The facilities in Belmayne, Dublin — St Francis of Assisi and Educate Together national schools — are owned by Western and leased to the State, meaning no taxpayer cost is involved in repairs. Powerstown Educate Together national school in Tyrrelstown, Dublin, has been replaced.

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