Ireland sets clean air standards for chicken coops, but not schools, Dáil hears 

Ireland sets clean air standards for chicken coops, but not schools, Dáil hears 

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said every classroom should be given a Hepa filter, which the Dáil heard would cost the State about €12m. File picture: Damien Storan

Ireland sets standards for clean air in chicken coops but not in schools, the Dáil has heard during a debate on Covid ventilation measures.

The Government has been called on to fast-track a bill to provide a right to clean air in workplaces and has also been urged to introduce Hepa filters in schools.

The Taoiseach said "bespoke solutions" would be provided to certain schools, as every school was different. He said 35,000 Co2 monitors have been issued to schools.

Sinn Féin's Rose Conway Walsh read out a letter from autistic student 'Ellen', who also has an autoimmune condition. She detailed how the policy of leaving doors and windows open is "preventing myself and other students from learning".

I'm often painfully cold in class and cannot focus. I'm an art student and my hands are so cold that I often can no longer hold my pencil and have to leave class to go to buy a cup of tea to warm up. It is nearly December and it is freezing. Often my classmates and I are shivering and have to wear coats, hats or gloves in class.

"Leaving the doors open means that we have the noise of outside where the children [of the school next door] are screaming and shouting. This makes it impossible for autistic students like myself to focus in class.

"The cases may be going up but the temperatures are going down. This policy needs to be re-examined as my right to education and the rights of other students who are ill or likewise disabled are being taken away."

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who brought forward the bill, said we would not be able to get on top of this pandemic without urgent action to make sure that schools and workplaces are properly ventilated.

He said every classroom should be given a Hepa filter, which the Dáil heard would cost the State about €12m.

"Ireland has laws setting minimum standards for clean air in chicken coops, but until now we have had nothing for schools, buses, pubs or offices," he said.

Fellow People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said Hepa filters are not by themselves a method to get rid of Covid but should be part of a suite of measures. 

"To repeat over and over that schools are safe when the dogs in the street know they are not is a real kick in the face to the population," she said.

Supporting the bill, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said "there is no question but that we are paying a very high price, or more accurately, children in Ireland are paying a very high price" because the issue of ventilation has been "largely ignored".

Independent TD Verona Murphy said it is well known that Covid is an airborne virus yet "none of the focus" has been on improving air quality or air filtration.

"When it comes to the Covid-19 response, we as a people wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and abide by complete lockdowns. We have even paid for €9 meals, endured hotel quarantine, largely took vaccinations and applied and used vaccine passports, yet we are where we are. 

"We need to look at other solutions rather than extending the failed ones," she said.

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