‘Bizarre’: Opposition critical of Housing Minister’s request for input on Mica

Darragh O’Brien seeks opinions on issue from Opposition spokespeople on housing

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has asked the Opposition for input on the defective blocks crisis, including some of the thorniest issues facing the Government over the contentious grant scheme to remedy mica issues.

The move sparked an immediate backlash from the Opposition, who dismissed it as “bizarre” and “entirely political”.

In a letter sent to Opposition housing spokespersons, Mr O’Brien posed a series of questions, including whether they support a cap on the square footage of homes which should be remedied or an overall cap on expenditure per home.

He has also asked whether they supported a formal State apology to homeowners, and asked for measures to seek redress from parties who may be found responsible for defects.

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Mr O’Brien asked whether they supported any additional financial contributions from other stakeholders, a compensation scheme for impacted homeowners, or a public enquiry. Technical matters such as whether Opposition parties support retrospective payment of expenditure incurred outside the scheme to date, and whether a one owner, one dwelling limit should be applied.

He is also seeking “estimated costs of such changes and what if any limits would you place on such expenditure”.

“Thank you for your consideration of this important issue. I look forward to your swift reply on the matters raised as we seek to expeditiously address the problems with the scheme and make sure homeowners have a real path forward.”

‘Most bizarre’

Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said his party would reply to the letter in full, but added: “This is the most bizarre email I have received from DOB since him becoming the Minister.”

"Given the Budget is next week and officials from the Housing Agency, the Department of Housing and families impacted have been meeting for four months, the fact he is only asking for this information now would suggest this is an entirely political exercise rather than an attempt to canvass views on the best way to solve this problem."

Another Opposition source said this was a “classic ‘we are in a mess, please share the blame’,” tactic.

Mr O’Brien has also asked whether holiday homes, rental properties and second homes, as well as commercial properties, should be included, and whether there should be a scheme of priority for affected homes including different categorisations of risk.

He told his Opposition counterparties that the impact of Mica and pyrite “has been devastating for families who are witnessing their homes crumble around them. I am fully aware of the pressing need for a scheme that gives them real hope and the Government is committed to bringing forward new proposals as soon as possible.”

Citing a Dáil motion passed in June, calling for 100 per cent redress, and that those responsible for defective blocks be held to account, Mr O’Brien said the previous Government’s scheme is “not working as intended”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times