Dáil debates

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

School Facilities

4:55 pm

Photo of Patrick O'DonovanPatrick O'Donovan (Limerick County, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I will ask the Department of Education, through the office of the Minister, Deputy Foley, to respond to the Deputy directly.

On the retrofitting of older buildings, Deputy Matthew’s commented that the OPW is steeped in this. Every old building presents its own challenges. In many cases the buildings the Deputy referred to are listed buildings. This includes primary and post-primary schools, that are either listed on the city and county development plans or, in some cases, are protected structures. That creates a difficulty as well for the board of management in terms of what can be done on the external elevations and windows. We have to be practical as well in relation to making sure that these buildings are comfortable. This is where often there is a clash in the prioritisation of needs.

We all have in our constituencies old buildings where children are trying to be educated. These buildings are on the list of protected structures or somebody's list of protected structures. Unfortunately, however, the comfort and needs of the children, teaching staff and support staff often fall far down the pecking order. Where there is a mass concrete building, the difficulties associated with attaching external or internal insulation must be borne in mind. If it is a stone building, the stone has to be able to breathe. The lime has to be able to breathe. This comes with a lot of complications, and these are not easily rectifiable.

We encounter these problems in the Office of Public Works when dealing with older buildings, particularly given the fact that a building will actually tell one what it is and is not capable of taking by way of modern infrastructure placed upon it. Therefore, it is not easy, particularly where buildings built before 2008 are concerned. Many of these were built in the 1960s and 1970s, and many of us were educated in them. To be quite honest about it, there is probably a bigger question to be asked regarding whether it is sustainable to try to insulate a building of the scale, nature and age that I describe instead of constructing a replacement one, for instance.


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