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Wednesday 13 November 2019

Builder of 'fire risk' schools to cooperate with safety reviews

Stock photo
Stock photo
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Western Building Systems (WBS) is insisting it will cooperate fully with the fire safety audit of all the schools it has built in the State since 2003.

Education Minister Richard Bruton this week announced 100pc of the developer's builds would be reviewed, after fire safety issues were identified in five of its school buildings.

A spokesman for WBS told the Irish Independent it welcomed the announcement of the audit and claimed all the buildings in question met fire safety standards at the time they were handed over.

It came as the Department of Education released details of all 31 schools to be audited. Of these, 14 are based in Dublin.

Nine Irish language schools were included on the list, among them Gaelscoil Shliabh Rua in Stepaside, Dublin; Gaelscoil Portlaoise; Gaelscoil na Mí; and Gaelscoil Tulach na Og in Dunboyne.

Social Democrats councillor Cian O'Callaghan said assurances by the minister concerning school building standards in recent years don't stack up in light of the review

"Once the department was aware of this problem... a fire safety audit of all recently built schools should have been ordered and any defects discovered urgently addressed," he said.

WBS said all schools go through a process of inspection during construction prior to handover.

"We believe all of the school buildings in question met all relevant fire safety and building regulations that prevailed at the time of handover," it added.

But the company said it was important to note both building and fire regulations have been updated since the buildings were handed over.

It said that the schools are responsible for maintenance and upgrade programmes once a project has been delivered by the contractor.

The company said it has a "distinguished record" of delivering high quality buildings for more than 35 years throughout the UK and Ireland.

"We take matters of health and safety very seriously indeed."

Fianna Fáil's education spokesman Thomas Byrne said the minister needed to explain why legal action has not been taken against the contractor over the five schools originally identified with fire safety issues.

"It's now over two years since the department became aware of the issue and Minister Bruton stated that he is still taking legal advice on the matter.

"It's time to take action on foot of that legal advice," he said.

A statement from the department said it did not believe there were fire safety issues with schools generally.

Irish Independent

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