Government accused of allowing 'wild west' building standards

Government accused of allowing 'wild west' building standards

Protesters for the Pyrite and Mica affected homeowners gather at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

The Government has been accused of allowing a "wild west" situation when it comes to building standards.

Another controversy similar to mica is inevitable unless the Government urgently acts to introduce proper building standards and inspections, opposition parties have said.

It comes as people impacted by the mica scandal prepare to protest in Dublin's city centre on Tuesday afternoon.

Social Democrats housing spokesperson Cian O'Callaghan said: "We are going to be in a situation again, with the taxpayer picking up the bill, if the Government doesn't act in terms of building standards and construction material standards. In particular, we need to have very strong standards put in place, very strong regulation and very strong independent inspections."

He added: "The Government is operating this kind of wild west on building standards and materials."

Protesters for the Pyrite and Mica affected homeowners gather at Dublin’s Convention Centre.
Protesters for the Pyrite and Mica affected homeowners gather at Dublin’s Convention Centre.

Mr O'Callaghan said the State should now "go after" insurance companies to ensure the taxpayer does not end up paying a €1bn bill to solve issues with mica.

Built with Weetabix

Solidarity-PBP TD Bríd Smith said the homes may as well have been built with Weetabix and not bricks.

"This epic scandal is not over by a long shot," said Ms Smith.

She said the Government is trying to solve the problem "on the cheap", adding people whose homes have been impacted by mica should get 100% of the cost of remediation.

I do think this issue of light touch and lack of regulation over the building industry runs much deeper and more scandals will emerge, particularly around defective apartments.

"They reckon there's about 100,000 defective apartments in Dublin City alone and more throughout other cities and towns across the country, and in these cases, people are being offered only interest-free loans to correct defects that were not of their making."

Protesters for the Pyrite and Mica affected homeowners Sharon Doneghy with her daughter Chloe from Buncrana County Donegal.
Protesters for the Pyrite and Mica affected homeowners Sharon Doneghy with her daughter Chloe from Buncrana County Donegal.

Labour senator Rebecca Moynihan said the Government needs to extend the mica scheme to ensure all those impacted by the issue are covered.

She called for a robust inspection process to ensure problems like this never happen again.

"This isn't just homes for people, we're talking about schools, we're talking about community centres.

"This is part of a wider issue of construction defects, and no proper inspection process in place for construction defects. If we don't get a hold on this, we will have another pyrite scandal, we will have a mica scandal," she said.

Redress scheme

Justice Minister Heather Humphreys said Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien still has to "work out" some of the details of a redress scheme for homeowners impacted by mica.

She said many people now find themselves in a "terrible and shocking situation" where their house is "crumbling around them".

She said in 2020 it was decided that 90% of the cost of fixing homes impacted by mica would be covered by the taxpayer.

However, campaigners say the full cost must be covered.

"Minister O'Brien is meeting with a delegation today, he will hear their concerns and the Government is committed to assisting the people impacted, but some of the detail needs to be worked out," she told RTÉ's News at One.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has been accused of deflecting on whether the government will pay 100% of the redress linked to Mica-affected housing.

During Leader's Questions, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald repeatedly called on Micheál Martin to state whether the government would foot the entire bill to repair houses in Donegal, Mayo and Clare who have been built with defective blocks, containing Mica or Pyrite.

"This scandal is a result of the light-touch regulation and the reckless practices of the Celtic Tiger years," she said.

"This is not the fault of the families concerned. It is the fault of those who were supposed to have their backs, who were supposed to be looking out for them. These families have been failed by the system, and have been failed by the state.

"These are people who have worked hard, who have saved hard to buy a home for themselves and their families to secure for themselves. When everyone deserves a safe, secure roof over their head, a place to call home, they find themselves in a nightmarish situation where their houses are literally crumbling around them."

Mary Lou McDonald said the idea that homeowners must pay 10% towards the cost could reach €100,000  for some families and this was not acceptable.

The Taoiseach said what has happened to the homeowners is "scandalous", adding the final bill would exceed €1 billion.

"It's devastating for those homeowners. It is appalling what has happened. We all know the impact it can have on people to have one of the key objectives of life to build your family home, all the sweat, toil and effort that that entails and that's been taken away from you.

"We will do everything we possibly can to help the homeowners, and to refine and amend and change the scheme in consultation with the Mica-Action Group, with a view to making sure we have a sustainable scheme that can bring these homes back and make them habitable for the families."

Ms McDonald began repeatedly asking Mr Martin if he would commit to 100% redress, which he did not answer.

The Sinn Féin president said the Taoiseach was "refusing to answer a very straightforward question".

Mr Martin replied that "the deputy seems to want to exploit every issue for political advancement."

Sinn Féin will table a motion tonight calling for 100% redress.

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