Minister for Education Joe McHugh
The Minister for Education Joe McHugh spoke to RTÉ’s News at One, on the back of RTÉ Education Correspondent Emma O’Kelly’s report earlier today that engineers had found structural flaws in 17 schools buildings – despite initial assessments carried out last October finding that there were no safety concerns.
These schools are in addition to 22 other schools that were found to have defects last year.
All of the schools affected were built by Tyrone-based company Western Building Systems.
Mr McHugh told RTÉ:
“Going back to the initial investigation [in October] and one of the questions that officials will always ask of engineers – are these schools safe to go into?. Yes they were deemed safe to go into.
“Are they safe to go into today? In terms of what we’ve received over the summer? Probably the answer would still be yes.
“But what I want to do, I want to be over prudent here. I want to ensure that these schools are long-term viable propositions over the next 50 to 60 years.”
Asked if there’s an issue within the Department of Education in how it audits building work, the minister said:
“That is a very good question and it’s something that we’re following up on.”
He said the department has already tendered for an international group to assess this type of building by WBS.
Meanwhile, Ms O’Kelly, who spoke to some of the principals of the affected schools, said they’re faced with “a big headache” as they’re due to open in two weeks.
“They’ve new teachers, they’ve new junior infants coming in and they’ve to make decisions. One principal described to me scaffolding in the stairwells of the school, scaffolding around the school.
“Another principal has already made the decision to postpone the opening of the school, just for a few days at this stage.
“…some principals are waiting and seeing because it’s very early days. They were just informed of this yesterday.”
Ms O’Kelly also said that the schools, to which the staff have not had access all summer, won’t be receiving the keys to their schools at close of business two days before the schools are scheduled to reopen – giving them one day to prepare for children returning to school.
Listen back in full here
Earlier: The 39 Schools