UPDATE: Four Laois schools built by company embroiled in multiple school safety shutdown

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Four Laois schools built by same company embroiled in school safety shutdown

Portlaoise Educate Together NS, one of four built by Western Building Services in Laois

Four schools in Laois were built by the same company that built a Dublin school which was closed this week over urgent construction safety fears.

Urgent structural assessments are to be done at 30 schools built by Western Building Services, after part of a Dublin school had to be shut down last weekend over 'significant structural issues'.

The issues found during a fire inspection of Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan.

UPDATE: On Tuesday evening, it has been announced that two further schools have been closed down in Dublin, over concerns for their structure.  According to RTE, the schools are Tyrrelstown Educate Together, built in 2011,  and St Luke's National School in Mulhuddart. More than 1,200 children attend the two schools.

Western Building Services also built the €8 million Summerhill campus in Portlaoise and Portarlington Presentation primary school, which was built in the year most concerning the Department of Education, 2008 to 2009.

The principal of Portarlington Presentation Primary Cathal Ruane has declined to comment as yet. 

The three schools in Summerhill primary school campus are Portlaoise Educate Together NS, Gaelscoil Phortlaoise and Maryborough NS, completed in 2013.

The schools were built for the Department of Education and Skills under its 'Rapid Build' programme. 

THE Department of Education has ordered an examination of 30 schools built between 2008 and 2013, in Dublin, Laois, Kildare and Cork. 

A spokesperson has told the Leinster Express why is has not yet released a list of all schools affected.

"The Department is contacting all relevant schools by phone today. The Department will not be releasing a list until all relevant schools have been contacted directly by the Department," the Dept said.

"In relation to the structural issues, the Department is focusing on issues pertaining to a particular method of construction (steel-frame, timber in-fill) in schools constructed by a particular contractor (Western Building Systems)." the spokesperson explained.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said that during fire assessments at a number of schools, “various degrees of deficiencies” had been identified. 

A comprehensive engineering assessment has been started at the other schools. 

The minister said that pupils may be asked to stay at home if major concerns are flagged. 

Minister McHugh said it may be a case that the 'rapid build' schools involved were built “too quickly”.

“It’s no excuse for not taking responsibility. It’s about finding solutions,” he said.

The department has started legal proceedings against WBS over a small number of the schools.