No international expertise sought on mica problem

No international expertise sought on mica problem

Paddy Diver from Inis Owen, Donegal, at Leinster House. 

The Department of Housing has not engaged with officials in other countries regarding properties afflicted with construction problems involving defects such as mica in concrete blocks.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has confirmed that the terms of reference of the expert panel which proposed the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant scheme currently in operation “did not extend beyond the jurisdiction of the Irish State”.

He likewise acknowledged that he has no knowledge as to whether defective construction materials of Irish origin may have ended up within the supply chains of other countries.

Responding to a series of parliamentary questions from Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy on the subject, Mr O’Brien said he has not “engaged or liaised with ministers or officials in other jurisdictions on the matter”.

He said the only such communications he had received on the subject had come from Colum Eastwood, an MP for Derry and leader of the SDLP in Northern Ireland, who had written to him regarding the issue in July of this year.

That representation had involved a request that houses which were not the primary dwelling for their owners but which were nevertheless affected by defective construction materials be included within the grant scheme within Counties Mayo and Donegal, the local authorities of which have responsibility for the administration of the scheme.

The issue of redress for owners of dwellings which have been effectively ruined by defects within their build relating to problem minerals like mica and pyrite has been a growing headache for the Government for several years now, but particularly within the past two months.

Last week, a draft report by a working group set up by Mr O’Brien to investigate the feasibility of a statutory redress scheme for homeowners concluded that offering 100% redress should not be given, with the cost of such a scheme likely to total in the region of €3.2bn.

However, yesterday, a senior minister within the coalition reiterated his own personal support for a 100% redress scheme for any demolitions or rebuilds necessary, as well as any kind of remedial remediation or repair work.

Charlie McConalogue, the Minister for Agriculture and a local TD for Donegal, one of the counties worst affected by the problem, told RTÉ yesterday there is a "reality here that homeowners do need support to have their homes fully fixed”.

"I will be working with my Cabinet colleagues and government colleagues over the next period of time to deliver a scheme that will reflect that and that will support homeowners to get their lives back on track and get their homes back,” he said.

“In north Donegal unfortunately, there isn't a family in the north of the country that doesn't have a family member affected by this. and in a significant way.”

“I have been campaigning on behalf of families to have the support that they need. It is going to be expensive. There's no two ways about it,” he said.

Roughly 6,600 homes may require repair under the auspices of any new redress scheme, not including homes not eligible for the scheme currently in place.

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