The Minister for Education has told an Oireachtas committee that his Department will pursue every legal channel against Western Building Systems - the company that built 23 schools where structural weaknesses have been discovered.

He said he had met the Attorney General and his department's legal team was in touch with the Chief State Solicitor's office.

He said they fully intended to pursue the company for the cost of the initial precautionary works as well as more long-term remediation work.

Joe McHugh told the committee that the Department of Education would now move to initiate more detailed structural investigations at all the schools involved, and to commence permanent remedial works.

He said the Department also intended to carry out a review of the Department's design and build programme, to include procurement, quality control, workmanship, and oversight.

Mr McHugh said the Department would need the results of more detailed structural assessments of the schools implicated to inform that review. 

Asked what had gone wrong at the first school where structural defects were identified, Ardgillan Community College in Dublin's Balbriggan, Mr McHugh said the problems included inside timber leafs not adjoined to the steel structure, timber panels not sitting correctly on concrete, and those panels attached to the concrete with wooden nails instead of bolts.

The Minister said that Senator Lynn Ruane's use of the word "negligence" in a question on this matter was appropriate.

He said the same level of "negligence" had not however been found in the other school buildings where flaws were discovered. He said what was found in Ardgillan was "alarming" and that "corners were cut".

The Minister said the issue of oversight, including levels of oversight, had to be examined into the future.

Solidarity People-Before-Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised the closure of a Western Building System's built college of Further Education in Dublin's Whitehall area in 2014, and subsequent legal action taken by the Office of Public Works in relation to this building. 

He asked did this closure relate to structural defects, and whether this should have been a "red flag" for the Department.

The Minister for Education and an official from the Department, Hubert Loftus, said this building was a different kind of construction and that was why there had been "no knock-on impact".

Mr McHugh said however that in any review or inquiry to be held, the Whitehall building should be part of it. 

In relation to two schools in Dublin's Tyrrelstown and Gaelscoil Eiscir Riada in Lucan, where work has been done to enable schools to use the ground floors of their buildings, Mr McHugh said work had to begin within a matter of weeks to get the first floors - and the second floor in the case of the Tyrrelstown schools - strengthened so that children could move back in to those floors too.

He said the work would have to take place at weekends.

In a statement this evening Western Building Systems welcomed the Minister's commitment to review the school building programme and undertake an inquiry.

WBS said it had been seeking to meet with the Minister for some weeks now and that conclusions were being reached before all perspectives were known.

It said committee members had not had the benefit of full information, not least the assessment reports from each of the schools reviewed.