Longboat Quay: Shoddy building is a national crisis waiting to happen

It was on one level somewhat appropriate that Environment Minister Alan Kelly was absent when the issue of the deplorable state of affairs surrounding the 900 residents who occupy 298 apartments in the Longboat Quay development was raised in the Dáil.

Longboat Quay: Shoddy building is a national crisis waiting to happen

You see, when it comes to protecting the rights of homeowners across the entire state, the minister and his predecessors have always been absent. Both he and his predecessors, with their laissez-faire attitude to environmental regulations, have been even worse than absentee regulators of the rights of house purchasers.

We are well and truly reaping the consequences of this ‘throw the houses up Patsy and let her fly’ policy — and not just in Priory Hall or Longboat Quay.

Dangerous and shoddy house-building and invisible regulation is a national crisis that is waiting to erupt.

Nothing epitomised the lax standards that applied at the time more than the apocryphal tale of one housing estate which was sold on the basis that it was designed on similar principles to the Egyptian pyramids. Those hopeful housebuyers who believed their homes would last as long as the pyramids, as they were promised, were in for a shock.

The housing development was built on the same principle as the pyramids but there was one problem. Egypt does not generally have frost or rain — and most of these houses are now in ruins.

The most annoying thing about Longboat Quay, Priory Hall, and other developments across rural and urban Ireland, is that the Government appears to be actively determined to learn nothing from the past.

It is, of course, unfortunate that Dublin Docklands Development Authority has made a derisory offer to the residents and that the Government appears to be so willing, for the easy life, to go along with it.

What is more astonishing though, is that in yet another cack-handed response to the growing housing crisis, the Minister for the Environment, Community, and Local Government and his minister of state have recently written to Dublin City Council asking it to relax the building regulations in the city.

Given that the response of the Coalition to the Priory Hall scandal was to introduce building control regulations in 2014, one could hardly accuse this administration of engaging in the virtue of joined-up thinking. Instead, when it comes to building regulations and their response to dodgy builders, they bounce around like tumbleweed in a deserted square.

Sadly, the original response of the Coalition has, like so many other of their responses, been more impressive in theory than in action. A great galaxy of assigned certifiers, namely surveyors, architects, and engineers, are all required to approve all construction projects.

However, this system is deeply flawed and does not address the problem the people of Longboat Quay and other developments across the country are facing.

It also fails to deal with the perception that the certifiers’ independence is greatly undermined by the fact that they are frequently either the designer of the building project or an employee of the developer.

Once again, developers are being allowed to effectively govern themselves.

Once again, it appears nothing has been learnt and ordinary workers will be the greatest victims of the Government’s unwillingness to learn.

It is not as though there are not precedents. Ireland needs to move to the system in the UK, where there is independent certification which is controlled by the local authority.

Given that politicians as diverse as the Tánaiste and the Minister for the Environment appear to be competing with each other to wash their hands of the issue, the omens in this regard are not good.

Before they tiptoe off the political pitch too swiftly on this one, the Government would be wise to realise that citizens are becoming increasingly fed up of the absence of any accountability in corporate Ireland.

The light-touch current regulations once again are a case of the politics of all- mouth and no trousers.

They lack teeth and they cannot make a difference because there is no requirement for independent certification.

Dodgy building work is not a victimless crime.

Some months ago, this nation was plunged into sadness when, courtesy of a similar light-touch regime, six young Irish citizens lost their lives in Berkeley during the summer.

The Minister of the Environment and the Government should move quickly to ensure we do not suffer a similar disaster.

If they don’t, and we do, they will not be forgiven easily.

Lucinda Creighton is a local TD for those living in Longboat Quay, and is leader of the Renua party.

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