October 23, 2020
Minister must address hand sanitiser defects immediately – Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for Education, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD, speaking today from Leinster House, called on the Minister for Education to urgently provide clarity on the testing and sampling of the defective hand sanitiser products recommended by her Department for use by children in schools.

Teachta Ó Laoghaire said:

“Schools have had to deal with huge issues and chaos this year, without the fiasco of an email at 22:40 last night informing them that one of the 11 sanitiser products recommended is defective, and that they should close their school if they couldn’t source an alternative.

“I have heard many stories from parents, of 1000s of kids turning up to school this morning to discover that the school gates were shut, and schools were closed for the day. Many principals only learnt of the issues this morning. This is simply not good enough.

“There are huge questions here for the Department of Education.

“We now know that the recall notice says that the products were due to be recalled by Tuesday. Why, then, did this only break so late last night?

“In a recent email which I have had sight of, the Minister’s private secretary informed a member of the public, that all sanitiser providers were asked to provide product samples, which were then assessed and evaluated, and I am quoting, ‘by a team with the necessary technical competencies’.

“Surely, if this were the case, and adequate testing and sampling was completed, these issues would have been found sooner. We do not yet know the extent of damage done.

“I have heard others in Government saying that people are making too much of this issue. In my view, however, it isn’t much to ask expect that where the Department recommend a product to schools, that it is safe for children to use.

“The Department of Agriculture has said that the ViraPro sanitiser in question can cause dermatitis, eye irritation, upper respiratory system irritation and headaches. I have been contacted today by a large cohort of parents, worried about irritation to their children’s skin, and asthmatic children.

“We also need to know if the Department is absolutely confident that the remaining hand sanitiser products have been adequately tested and are safe for use.

“I raised this in the Dáil last night, and I asked the Minister to make a statement, to reassure parents and school staff, and give clarity. I regret that she did not take up this opportunity last night, nor today when I again raised my concerns.

“The Minister must provide us with answers on this immediately, and she must reassure parents and school staff who may have come into contact with the defective product.”

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