The Minister of Education promises to close the schools


The Minister of Education, Joe McHugh, pointed out that the missed buildings, which caused the closure of many schools throughout the country and the corrective measures in others, justify a criminal investigation.

He underlined that within the framework of the Building Supervision Act, it was a crime to build substandard buildings.

"I did not come into contact with the guards, but I will say that the law is very precise that it is a criminal offense, not just a crime. It had to be guilty," he said.

The Minister was questioned at an urgent meeting of the Oireachtas Education Committee to discuss structural security issues for 42 schools built by Co Tyrone Western Building Systems (WBS).

Emergency scores were canceled by 19 schools last week, while others require a different level of rehabilitation, while others were closed, although two of them are reopened tomorrow, Tyrellstown Educate Together and St. Luke's National School in Dublin.

Mr McHugh said that there will be a query on this, as well as an overview of the way the department's school department is managed. He also said that he was determined to continue all the paths, in order to ensure that the cost of repair work and disturbances was restored.

"We will strive for all possible channels to ensure justice, not only in terms of taxpayers, but also equity for these communities," he said, adding that architects, designers, engineers, contractors and anyone else who participated in projects, who may have had a role in what turned out to be in his views.

Mr McHugh said that a dialogue on building control and the current self-certification scheme for construction is needed. He said that while local authorities were responsible for building control, they did not have dedicated control units.

The review should also examine whether rapid construction – which specializes in WBS – is the best way to respond to the urgent demand for infrastructure. This was important given the current demand for fast-built homes, he said.

The TD asked whether the department ignored the red flags of the WBS after problems with the building for the Whitehall College of Further Education in 2014.

Hubert Loftus, Head of Planning and Construction, said that these problems are specific to this building and are different from those that have recently emerged.

Yesterday evening, the WBS said it was trying to meet the minister for "a few weeks" and that "the conclusions are reached before all perspectives are known".

"The members of the committee did not benefit from the full information, nor the evaluation reports of each of the examined schools," she said, adding that the investigation would be credible only if it were independent of the two main contracting parties in each school project – the department and the contractor.

"Today's committee once again draws attention to the shortcomings in the system," said WBS. "Regardless of the layers of inspections, there is confusion today and an increasing lack of accountability. As elsewhere, it's time to move completely into a truly independent certificate without the involvement of departments or operators."

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