Several of the tradespeople who had been working on the Loreto Secondary School building extension staged a protest outside the extension on the Granges Road on Friday in the wake of the main contractor pulling out of the job earlier in the week.
Their intention, they said, was to keep the spotlight on the issue so that they can complete the job – and get paid what they were promised for it.
The work on the first phase of the refurbishment and extension is within several weeks of being completed and work on the second phase was due to begin shortly, according to Ned Costigan, a bricklayer who spoke on behalf of the workers.
The main contractor for the €5.9 million project was McCann Bros (Ireland), based in Omagh, County Tyrone.
In addition to wanting to finish the work they were contracted to do, the tradespeople also want the state to carry out an inquiry into the way such contracts are awarded. They are planning to bring their protest to the Department of Education this week, he said.
“Our purpose in being here today is to maintain this in the headlines. If we don’t, we know this will slip into the Twilight Zone,” Mr Costigan said.
The problem is not limited to Loreto Kilkenny either, he said, pointing to contractors having not completed works at Inchicore National School, for example.
“This has happened time and time again,” he said. For one of the tradesmen, “it’s the fifth time in two years that he has been caught for money.”
Mr Costigan said that he had contact the Department of Education several weeks ago to warn them that the contractor was probably in financial trouble. There were “tell-tale signs,” he said, when the contractor stopped taking their phone calls and stopped attending the site meetings.
Now, despite being owed a total of €200,000 to €300,000, he said, “We are determined that this will be sorted out quickly.”
“We are not going to settle for anything less. We are not going to be written out of the story,” he said.
School officials met with the Department of Education on Wednesday of last week to discuss how to get the remainder of the work completed.
A design team is now examining the site to determine what works need to be carried out and to prioritise them in order of importance.
Principal Colm Keher said he expected this process to take a week or two, after which they will bring a proposal back to the department, which is funding the works.
He said he was “reasonably confident” that the works could be completed by next summer, as the remaining works should take about three months to carry out.
Although some schools have had to wait long periods of time while their sites remained idle, Mr Keher said he was confident that the school would not be left out in the cold.
“You do hear some horror stories, but there are other schools that have done it right. Every school has its own set of circumstances,” he said.
He also said Loreto was in a better situation for this to have happened while the school is functioning. “It would have been a bigger headache during the summer,” Mr Keher said.
“Obviously, at the same time we want to get the project completed as soon as possible,” he said.