Housing minister defends decision to close schools today

Eoghan Murphy says the Government had to put child safety first

Housing minister defends decision to close schools today

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy addressing the media at the National Emergency Coordination Centre in Dublin | Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Housing has defended the Government's decision to keep schools closed again today.

The decision was announced yesterday evening, prompting a mixed reaction from students and parents.

Critics have suggested schools which were not badly hit - especially in the Dublin area - could have reopened safely this morning.

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning however, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said the National Emergency Coordination Group had to err on the side of caution.

"We had to make a call in the course of yesterday afternoon based on what we were hearing out of Cork and other parts of the country," he said.

"[There was] structural damage to some schools, road closures, fallen wires, problems with water and schools maybe not having drinking water of power or issues like that - we had to put child safety first."

He said the strength of Storm Ophelia was "something unprecedented" for the country, adding that limiting the loss of life and injury was "foremost in our minds" from the moment the NECG was convened.

He said delaying the decision would have meant inspections at individual schools first thing this morning - potentially putting parents in a "very difficult position."

"Given that the storm was still raging and still had to come through a large part of the country - including Dublin at the time - we felt that the most important thing to do was to put child safety first and close primary and secondary schools," he said.

He said that while the country is "back open and up and running" today there are still issues around road closures, fallen wires and felled trees.

"We would ask people to remember that while the storm has passed we are still dealing with some of the crisis elements of it," he said.

"Just to be aware that as they go about their business today there will be road closures - some rail lines will be closed and haven't been cleared yet - it will be dangerous in certain parts of the country and just to be mindful of that."

The cleanup from Ophelia is underway around the country today, with local and national authorities assessing the damage.

Three people lost their lives as a result of the powerful storm, with winds reaching over 190 kph in some areas.

The deaths occurred in separate incidents in Co Waterford, Co Tipperary and Co Louth.