Price of fixing schools has exceeded building cost of €160m

Maintenance work on 40 schools with structural and fire safety defects has now exceeded the original building cost of €160 million
Price of fixing schools has exceeded building cost of €160m

Maintenance work on 40 schools with structural and fire safety defects has now exceeded the original building cost of €160 million.

The cost of remedial work, which was started in 2015 when fire safety defects were detected in a north Dublin school, has increased significantly.

In October 2020, the Public Accounts Committee was told the cost had reached €90 million.

However, a number of sources told the Irish Examiner that the cost has now exceeded €160 million with the work not yet completed.

On Monday, the Commercial Court is due to begin hearing an action taken by the Department of Education against the contractor, Tyrone-based Western Building Systems (WBS), over alleged failures in the construction of Ardgillan Community College in north Co Dublin.

This will be the first of 34 different cases, concerning 40 schools, that the department is taking against WBS.

School places

Between 2003 and 2018, WBS was responsible for the construction of 50 schools around the State. The building was part of a programme designed to meet the growing demand for school places.

Five of the 40 schools where defects have been identified are in Cork, 18 are in the Dublin area.

A Department of Education spokesperson would not confirm whether the remedial works exceeded the original building costs.

“The department is not in a position to comment on the details of the issues raised in the media query, given that cases are currently before the courts," the spokesperson said.

"The department continues to liaise with the Chief State Solicitor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office on the ongoing legal process.”

WBS declined to comment due to the forthcoming hearing.

“WBS is vigorously contesting the actions taken against it and its co-defendants,” a spokesperson said.

WBS has insisted that the department signed off on its work over the years to confirm it was was up to proper standards.

In 2019, it called for an independent investigation to examine “how schools previously certified for completion as being free from defects by the department, and described less than 12 months ago by the then minister as being built to the highest standards, are now being deemed to require remedial works”.

This will be the first case concering the fallout from building practices and regulations during the so-called Celtic Tiger years.

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