Tuesday 18 December 2018

Collapse of UK firm raises fears for school builds here

Six Irish projects caught up in Carillion liquidation

Uncertainty: the new Coláiste Raithín, Bray, is one of six premises being built here by UK builder Carillion. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Uncertainty: the new Coláiste Raithín, Bray, is one of six premises being built here by UK builder Carillion. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

An Irish school caught up in the collapse of UK building giant Carillion is now worried about the project ending up in a legal quagmire, further delaying the long-awaited opening of its new premises.

Coláiste Ráithín, in Bray, Co Wicklow, is one of six Irish schools and colleges being built under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement involving the construction company, which went into liquidation yesterday.

Carillion is the lead consortium member and has a 50pc shareholder in InspiredSpaces, which is responsible for delivery of the schools. The news came as a massive blow just a week or so before some of the schools were expecting to move in to their new premises.

Gearóid Ó Ciaráin, principal of the all-Irish post-primary school in Bray, said he was expecting the keys next Monday and was planning to move in on Wednesday.

He said: "Our main worry now is that it will get bogged down in legal difficulties and drag on for a long time."

The school will be sharing the 10-acre campus, on the grounds of the old Bray golf course, with St Philomena's primary school, which was also looking forward to a new home within weeks.

Another of the six, Loreto College, Wexford, was also expecting to move into its new school next week. Other projects affected are Eureka Secondary School, Kells, Co Meath, also due to open its news premises soon, Tyndall College, Carlow, and Carlow College of Further Education.

Uncertainty now surrounds the completion of the works, worth a total of €100m, although the National Development Finance Agency (NDFA) said it did not envisage any material delay or disruption.

Education Minister Richard Bruton said the NDFA, which is managing the PPP contract for the department, would be discussing the situation with the remaining shareholder, DIF-Dutch Infrastructure Fund, and he was confident of a resolution.

Mr Bruton said the projects were 90pc completed and the Department of Education was committed to full completion "in as timely a manner as possible".

PPP schools are built under a licence through which the department pays an annual sum for 25 years, called a unitary charge payment, to cover costs of construction and maintenance.

To date, the only payment made by the Department of Education to InspiredSpaces is €4m for off-site works, which have already been completed.

The NDFA stated that it did not envisage or delay to the works.

The agency said it was "actively monitoring the position in the context of the robust contractual protections provided for under the PPP contract".

It added that the "State is not obliged to make any further payment until the full works and services set out under the contract have been satisfactorily delivered for each school".

The NDFA said "in accordance with international best practice, the contract includes detailed provisions that apply in the event of the liquidation of a consortium member to ensure that the project proceeds on a 'business-as-usual' basis with minimal disruption.

Fianna Fáil education spokesperson Thomas Byrne said decisiveness was needed from Mr Bruton "to alleviate the concerns of these schools".

Labour education spokesperson Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said there were major questions as to whether subcontractors working on the projects would now see their bills paid.

Irish Independent

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