Belfast Telegraph

Collapse of construction giant Carillion hits schools

The fallout from the scandal has led to calls for the Education Minister to answer questions in the Dail.

The future of 100 million euro of school building projects in Ireland has been thrown into doubt by the collapse of UK construction giant Carillion.

Amid reports that builders were leaving sites, opposition politicians called for the Education Minister Richard Bruton to answer questions on the impact of the company’s sudden demise.

Carillion had contracts for five schools and one further education campus.

The Department of Education and Skills confirmed last week the firm was involved in public private partnerships for new facilities in Loreto College, Wexford, Colaiste Raithin and St Philomena’s Primary School, both in Bray, Co Wicklow, Eureka Secondary School, Kells, Co Meath, and Tyndall College and the Carlow Institute of Further Education, both in Co Carlow.

The school buildings are said to be 90% complete.

Billy O’Shea, principal of Loreto College, said he had been due to have the keys to new facilities for 900 pupils as the collapse hit.

“We have been repeatedly told over the last week, since this crisis unfolded in the UK, that we should be OK, that there’s a lot of goodwill and hopes that we would be able to move in,” he told RTE Radio.

Mr O’Shea said it is hoped the locks on the new school buildings will be opened next month when a new facilities management arrangement is put in place.

Carillion’s contracts with the Department of Education included being a 50% shareholder in a business to build and then maintain the buildings for the next 25 years.

Colaiste Raithin in Bray was also supposed to move pupils into the new school buildings this week.

Thomas Byrne, Fianna Fail education spokesman, said: “Five schools across the country are completely unsure as to what will happen to their building projects, and to their future maintenance services due to the collapse of Carillion.”

The opposition spokesman said the Education Minister had given assurances that the schools would not be affected.

Mr Byrne said sub-contractors working on the Eureka project in Kells were extremely concerned and called for exact plans on how the schools will be finished and maintained.

Sinn Fein’s Kathleen Funchion said: “Our schools cannot be at the mercy of the result of PPP when it goes wrong.

“Minister Bruton and his department have a responsibility to ensure that the buildings are now completed within the given time frames and further disruption is not caused to the schedules.”

Billy Wall of the OPATSI union which represents some trades, said workers cannot be allowed to bear the brunt of the Carillion collapse.

“It was always claimed that this model protected the taxpayer and transferred risk to the private sector – Carillion shows that this is clearly not the case,” he said.

In the UK uncertainty continues over the future of thousands of workers employed by Carillion and its many sub-contractors on jobs ranging from hospital construction to school meals and cleaning.

The National Development Finance Agency (NDFA), which oversees the public-private contracts, said the school builds were worth 100 million euro.

Safety nets are in place to ensure the work is finished in the event of a liquidation, it said.

The agency said about four million euro has been paid to date and the state is not obliged to make any more payments until the work is done.

Talks are ongoing to get the contracts completed, it said.

“Every effort is being made to ensure delivery of the schools in as timely a manner as possible,” the NDFA said.

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph