Thursday 21 September 2017

Parents fear 'huge loss of life' over breaches of school building standards

  • 'We simply do not know if it is safe. They say a fire drill can evacuate everyone within five minutes, but we've already lost time'
  • If you're affected by the issue, be sure to contact us at contact@independent.ie or through any of our social media channels
Gaescoil na gCloch Liath in Greystones. Photo: Arthur Carron
Gaescoil na gCloch Liath in Greystones. Photo: Arthur Carron

Gavin White

Parents and local representatives have expressed their anger over fire safety concerns in schools, which they believe risks a "huge loss of life".

Safety fears were raised for thousands of school children after the Department of Education announced it would carry out fire audits at more than two dozen schools around the country built over the past 20 years.

Fire safety audits found breaches of standards at five recently built primary schools.

The buildings were meant to provide 60 minutes of fire retardation to allow them to be evacuated. However, the audit found the actual construction meant the level of retardation would be less.

The schools are Powerstown Educate Together National School (ETNS) in Dublin; Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath in Greystones, Co Wicklow; Mullingar ETNS in Co Westmeath; and Belmayne ETNS and St Francis of Assisi NS, both in Belmayne in Dublin.

One concerned parent, who has more than one child in the Gaelscoil na gCloch Liath, said the issue was "of huge concern for a number of reasons".

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Irish Independent that parents have had "no reassurances" that their fire alarm system was to the required standard.

"We simply do not know if it is safe," she said. "They say a fire drill can evacuate everyone within five minutes, but we've already lost time (due to fire alarm issues). There's a huge potential for loss of life here."

She also said parents had not had any reassurances in regards to the fire certificates and whether they were adequate or not. "We have had no assurances at all of when the works will take place," she said.

"Fire will travel through these walls faster than regulations allow."

The mother said the delay in getting works done after the report was completed in July 2016 was extremely concerning.

"Why is that okay? There are hundreds of children and staff members at risk here," she said.

A letter sent to parents on Saturday night, seen by the Irish Independent, said the school was safe. "The principal and board of management wish to reassure you that there are no concerns around the health and safety of the school community," the letter said. "The issues outlined in the report do not in any way find that the buildings are dangerous."

Local representatives said it was "shocking" that fire safety issues had yet to be addressed.

Greystones councillor Gráinne McLoughlin said the school had "already out-grown itself". She added: "The whole issue is totally shocking, to be honest."

Cllr McLoughlin said there was "a lot of anger amongst parents" over how it was handled.

A petition has also been signed by 415 residents in Belmayne attempting to force the building of two new schools in the area, which received planning permission in May 2016.

A statement from the Belmayne Residents' Group said it was "morally reprehensible" that the safety of more than 800 children was put at risk.

The statement described the issue as "shocking".

St Francis of Assisi NS. Photo: Fergal Phillips
St Francis of Assisi NS. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Mullingar Educate Together National School. Photo: James Flynn/APX
Mullingar Educate Together National School. Photo: James Flynn/APX
Belmayne Educate Together National School. Photo: Fergal Phillips
Belmayne Educate Together National School. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Irish Independent

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