Construction boss weeps in court as he insists he thought Dublin’s allegedly defective quick-build school was safe

The boss of the company that built an allegedly defective secondary school in Dublin told the High Court in handing over the completed project that he had no reason to believe there were any defects.

Artin McCloskey of Western Building Systems at one point broke down crying and was forced to take a few minutes to collect himself during cross-examination after recounting how he was alone and confronted with the possibility that he might be after the trial for alleged school deficiencies began business is taken away.

“I’m just fighting for my business, that’s all,” he said as he wiped tears from his eyes and Justice Brian O’Moore adjourned the case for a few minutes to allow him to calm down.

Secretary of Education and Skills is suing Western over deficiencies at Ardgillan Community College in Balbriggan.

Western was founded in 1991 in the Coaisland by Mr. McCloskey (68), a qualified carpenter who entered the prefabricated timber business. It denies the claims.

The trial, which entered its 32nd day on Thursday, has heard that delivering the building at a “breakneck speed” of 22 weeks – instead of the normal 60 weeks – poses the risk of substandard work from contractors and subcontractors.

It is the case of Western that in these circumstances the Minister-approved architects and civil engineers who oversaw the project had a clear duty to oversee the work. However, the case against those parties was settled early in this case, the court heard.

Western has argued that the failure to oversee and inspect ongoing work by the approved design team members placed moral responsibility for the cost of the school’s refurbishment work on the Minister.

The minister argues that this is Western’s responsibility under the ‘design/build’ contract system. The minister says the clean-up cost is €11.5 million, while Western says the work could have cost as little as €1.2 million if it had been carried out quickly.

When asked repeatedly who was responsible for the shortcomings, Mr McCloskey repeatedly insisted that on the day he handed the school over to the Ministry he “never thought it would have any shortcomings”.

While he agreed that there were some shortcomings, he believed that Western could have fixed them once the company had been made aware of them.

The court heard the department was shocked when new professionals alerted them to the extent of the deficiencies in 2017, following inspections following the 2016 collapse of an Edinburgh school built under the design/build system . Ardgillen was built in 2009.

Mr McCloskey told him from David McGrath SC, for the Minister, that there was agreement between the Department’s experts and Welstern’s experts on the shortcomings and said he could not agree with many of them. They can’t all be occupied, he said, but his goal is to solve them as quickly as possible “to get me and everyone else out of this mess we’re in.”

Mr McCloskey said that by the end of the 22-week timeframe for the school to open, teachers, children and workers were “all one on top of the other trying to open it”.


Martin McCloskey of Western Building Systems

When asked by the attorney what that had to do with his company’s responsibility to provide a fit for purpose school under the contract, he said he would not provide a fit for purpose school.

When the solicitor told him he seemed to be suggesting that the responsibility for getting the work done properly rested with the architectural and engineering specialists, Mr McCloskey said his firm had “less a role to play in the finesse of the building” than it did “I’m quite glad we didn’t hand over a school that I ever thought had flaws.”

At one point during the questioning, the judge stepped in to ask Mr. McCloskey to answer a simple question about whether he said responsibility for the quality of the work had nothing to do with westerns. Mr. McCloskey replied that “Western would have responsibility for all jobs.”

Mr McCloskey denied a brochure produced as part of bidding for the project, which asserted that quality control was “just a ploy to get the job”.

He also said he had no reason to believe the subcontractors he employs would “cut corners” on the job.

The case continues. Construction boss weeps in court as he insists he thought Dublin’s allegedly defective quick-build school was safe

Fry Electronics Team

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