Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach: Carillion school builds will be finished

There have been reports that at least 100 construction workers have been affected by concerns over the future of projects.

The Taoiseach has said everything is being done to finish and open school building projects hit by the collapse of UK construction giant Carillion.

Amid reports that builders were leaving or being forced off sites, Leo Varadkar said the Government was in a strong position to get the work done.

“We’ll do everything we can over the next couple of days to have this resolved in a matter of weeks so children and their teachers can move into these fabulous new school buildings,” he said.

The Taoiseach defended the use of public private partnerships – the type of contract which saw Carillion secure deals on 100 million euro of school building projects and 25-year maintenance arrangements.

Only four million euro has been paid out to date on the work at five schools and one college of further education.

The Taoiseach added: “A similar situation could have just as easily arisen if it was a traditional construction contract, where a contractor, a private company building any school or any building, can go bust and go into liquidation.”

The Department of Education and Skills confirmed last week Carillion was a part shareholder in contracts 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.”

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

Billy Wall, of the OPATSI union which represents some trades, said workers cannot be allowed to bear the brunt of the company’s 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 they include clauses to ensure work is finished in the event of a liquidation and that talks are ongoing.

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

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