Five Cork schools to get fire safety audit

Five Cork schools to get fire safety audit
Minister for Education Richard Bruton. His department said the audits are being taken as a precautionary measure. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

Fire safety audits are to be carried out at five Cork primary schools, including a school for children with special needs, as part of a Government inspection into serious fire safety lapses in national schools built during the boom.

The Department of Education has launched a second investigation into fire safety breaches at schools built by Western Building Systems Ltd (WBS), after serious fire safety hazards were identified in five schools built by the company.

The results of these audits, carried out in 2016, were published last month.

The Government will now inspect 31 primary schools built by WBS, completed during 2003 to 2016, in Cork, Meath, Dublin, Laois and Wicklow.

The audit includes five Cork schools: Scoil Phadraig Naofa, Rochestown;Cara Jnr (Special) School, Mayfield;Carrigaline Educate Together National School; GS Mhichil Ui Choileain Clonakilty and Macroom Boys National School.

The Department of Education will also carry out a separate sample of 25 schools constructed during the last 20 years.

Leader of Fianna Fail and Cork South Central TD, Micheal Martin has accused the Department of Education of attempting to suppress the publication of the initial report that led to this investigation.

"It’s simply inexcusable that parents were kept in the dark regarding this issue and that the Boards of Management weren’t informed of the serious fire safety concerns that had been identified in their schools.” "While I have no concerns about the five schools in Cork, it's important to have them rechecked to ensure parent and pupil confidence in their learning environment.

In a statement, the Department of Education said that it does not believe there are issues with fire safety with schools and audits are being taken as a precautionary measure.

“It is important to note that the Department does not believe that there are issues regarding fire safety with schools generally, rather these measures are being taken in order to take an abundance of caution approach in this area,” a Department of Education and Skills spokesperson said.

The Department expects it will take approximately six months to complete, the spokesperson added.

“However, in each case, the Department will require an early report from the Fire Safety Consultants conducting the audit if any issue of significant concern is discovered.” “It should be noted that each school building is already required to have and comply with a fire certificate awarded at time of construction by the local authority.” “Minister Bruton needs to explain why legal action has not commenced to determine liability,” Deputy Martin said.

“It’s now over two years since the Department became aware of the issue and Minister Bruton stated yesterday that he is still taking legal advice on the matter. It’s time to take action on foot of that legal advice.” "I am also concerned that the Department is now only appointing a clerk of works to oversee construction. This is not acceptable and is causing further worry among parents and staff about building standards in general," Deputy Martin added.

In a statement, a WBS spokesperson said WBS was confident all of the buildings in question conformed with the required standards and specifications relevant at the time of hando “We believe all of the school buildings in question, which were delivered since 2004, met all relevant fire safety and building regulations that prevailed at the time of handover.” “However, it is important to note that both building and fire regulations have been updated since the buildings were handed over and that schools are responsible for maintenance and upgrade programmes once a project has been delivered by the contractor.”

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