Belfast Telegraph

Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to keep schools shut following storm

All schools across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are to remain closed on Tuesday as the authorities deal with the aftermath of Storm Ophelia.

The decision was taken to "avoid any potential risk to life for children and staff" after severe winds caused widespread damage to the electricity network, structural damage and uprooted trees.

Irish Education Minister Richard Bruton‏ said over 350,000 businesses and homes are already without power, severe winds continue to cause damage and many roads are closed due to fallen trees.

"It is also the case that school authorities will in very many cases not have had an opportunity to check their buildings and confirm they are safe, have power and water, and that routes to the school are safely open," the minister added.

Mr Bruton admitted that the decision to close schools "will have a major impact on families and on the workforce."

He added, however: "This decision has been taken in the interests of safety for children and to provide clarity for everyone concerned."

He said his department will issue guidance to schools in relation to making up lost days.

In relation to third level education Mr Bruton said it was up to individual institutions to decide whether to open.

In Northern Ireland, the Education Department said schools have been advised to remain closed to "avoid any potential risk to life for children, young people and staff."

He added: "I fully appreciate this decision will impact on the work of the schools and indeed on other businesses and services."

On Monday, parents were left scrambling to make last-minute childcare arrangements after the department failed to make any announcements about school closures in the region until late on Sunday night.

Head teachers were left confused after hearing about the closures on social media at 10.30pm.

Parents took to Twitter to vent their frustration at the lack of timely information.

@maryclarex1 Tweeted: "Conflicting messages from individual schools planning to open. Just not good enough.

@LockTrev said: "What sort of advice is that to give? Wishy washy. Make a decision and get it out asap!"

@colliedoggie wrote: "This tweet is causing considerable concern. Neither principals or chairs (me) have been informed."

David Sterling, head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, admitted that safety advice and information could have been provided more quickly to the public in the region.

Speaking at Stormont prior to an emergency meeting with the permanent secretaries from all Government departments, Mr Sterling said: "Perhaps in hindsight we may have done some things more quickly.

"But now we have given clear evidence and advice out to the community and we will continue to do that."

All Further Education colleges across Northern Ireland are also to remain closed on Tuesday.

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