Tax breaks for owners who must fireproof homes

Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said home-owners who foot the bill to make their homes fire safe could get tax breaks.

He was speaking after concerns were raised about Irish apartment blocks in the wake of the Grenfell fire in London, which has claimed the lives of 80 people.

He said a range of options are being considered by him and his department, including giving tax relief to home-owners who have already moved to secure their houses from the risk of fire.

Mr Murphy said Grenfell was “a game-changer” in how we have to look at fire safety, especially in large apartment blocks.

Dublin Fire Brigade chief fire officer Patrick Fleming said local authorities are best placed to carry out building control inspections in the wake of the Grenfell fire, but warned that the resources are not there at present to allow them do the job properly.

“Well, I think every local authority has a building control section, and fire services as well, and the local authority system is probably the best situated service in order to provide that,” he said.

“However it does need the resources to do that and that is where there may be some issues.”

Mr Murphy, speaking on Morning Ireland on RTÉ radio said: “The first responsibility that I think we have here is to ensure that there are fire safety measures in place in all multi-storey buildings.

“We moved very quickly to liaise with the building control authorities, to liaise with the fire authorities to ensure that they were doing this inspection work.

“By July 19 we’ll have reports back from the local authorities on their inspection of multi-storey units. By that point as well all local authorities will have inspected cladding on buildings over 18m. These are important first steps that we need to take to make sure that people are safe where they live,” he said.

On Tuesday, it emerged that the same cladding used in Grenfell Tower was used in the headquarters of Cork County Council.

The council confirmed that a similar aluminium material used in Grenfell is installed around the exterior of the council chamber within the main foyer.

The cladding was installed during a €62m refurbishment of County Hall completed in 2006.

Mr Murphy has also ordered the co-ordination of a taskforce to lead the re-appraisal of fire safety in Ireland. “While preliminary work shows that there are no situations in Ireland directly comparable to Grenfell Tower, we must learn the lessons and take appropriate and balanced action to minimise the possibility of a large-scale fire occurring in Ireland,” he said.

Independent TD Tommy Broughan also raised worries that the unsafe cladding used in the UK may have been used here.

He said: “The same restrictions apply in Ireland that you can’t use non-compliant material yet it has been used in the UK and we need to know now if it has also been used in Ireland.”

Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin said Mr Murphy “must order a systematic recheck of fire safety in buildings”.

She said: “It’s extremely worrying that the flammable cladding, believed to have contributed to the spread of the awful fire in Grenfell Tower, was installed here in Ireland.”

The National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management is charged with co-ordinating the taskforce.

Last week, Leo Varadkar’s Government lost its first vote since he became Taoiseach, when a Green Party motion on building standards passed through the Dáil.

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