Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Thomas Byrne TD has called for an investigation into fire safety concerns at a number of school buildings constructed by Western Building Systems.
Deputy Byrne made the comments after forcing Minister Richard Bruton to acknowledge at the Oireachtas Education Committee that a number of schools constructed by the company have serious fire safety deficiencies.
Deputy Byrne said, “It’s deeply disappointing that Minister Bruton attempted to suppress a report which contained serious concerns regarding fire safety in a number of schools. 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.
“The Department of Education carried out initial fire safety audits into these schools which were completed in July 2016. However the results of this audit were only published at the start of September 2017, after it became apparent that Minister Bruton would be forced to discuss the issue at an Oireachtas Committee following my request for him to attend.
“The revelations at the committee meeting were deeply disturbing and raise serious concerns regarding the safety of children in these schools. Minister Bruton confirmed that the buildings did not meet the required 60 minute evacuation time and that substandard fire-retardant plasterboard was used during construction. The construction of the schools did not meet the specifications of the required fire-safety certificate.
“Minister Bruton needs to explain why legal action has not commenced to determine liability. 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 beyond belief and causes further worry about building standards in general.
“I am also calling on the Minister to urgently review all applications to his department for fire safety works that have been refused in recent years. This is really worrying and the Minister’s answers in relation to this point at the committee yesterday did not inspire confidence.”