Claims about quarries ‘suppressing’ information to be examined by surveillance body

National Building Control Office has just four full-time staff to monitor more than 1,000 quarries

Claims that quarry owners are deliberately “suppressing” information about defective materials and doing “side deals” with affected homeowners will be examined by a building standards watchdog, it has emerged.

The National Building Control Office (NBCO), which carries out the functions of a market surveillance authority, told The Irish Times it is looking into the claims made by consultant engineer Aidan O’Connell.

During an Oireachtas committee hearing into a new enhanced mica grant scheme, Mr O’Connell said unsatisfactory materials are still being produced by quarries and that some politicians may be aware of it.

“Some of the difficulties we are having is the quarry owners recognise they have a problem and they are suppressing the information and some of the damage and doing some side deals with homeowners.


“Ultimately, I believe it is going to come out, where all of these locations are.”

Mr O’Connell said some quarries are still producing building materials knowing they are “wholly unsatisfactory”. He said he believed some TDs knew this to be the case and added: “I encourage them to use their authority to get it stopped.”

An NBCO spokeswoman said on Friday: “This office is following up this issue with Mr O’Connell.”

Meanwhile, concerns have emerged about adequate resourcing of the NBCO after Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan was told the budget for the office was about €564,000. It is understood this funding comprises 31 local authorities providing about €18,000 each from their budget.

There are about 1,100 working quarries in Ireland.

The NBCO said to date, since it was fully established in mid-2021, some 127 quarries have been inspected for compliance with construction products regulations.

It is understood there are only about four full-time staff in the NBCO to conduct inspections on what is a multibillion-euro industry. Those officers travel countrywide and check documentation, regulatory compliance , certification and traceability of materials.

The NBCO said that there were 48 reactive market surveillance inspections in 2021 which were triggered by complaints.

During Thursday’s hearing, when questioned about Mr O’Connell’s claims, senior adviser in the Department of Housing John Wickham referenced the NBCO’s market surveillance powers and called for any information about unsatisfactory practices to be brought “to the powers-that-be who are more than competent to deal with that”.

He said it was “important that everyone in the supply chain takes responsibility for the proper materials that they put into buildings”.

Earlier in the day, homeowners affected by pyrite and mica called on the Government to allow them to downsize their homes without having their grants reduced. Under the new legislation, if a homeowner receives a grant for demolition to foundation level and decides to rebuild a smaller home than that on which the grant amount was determined, the local authority will reduce the grant amount approved.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times