Builders, designers of mica homes should play role in redress, says Minister

O’Brien seeks to ensure accountability for ‘people who have walked off the pitch’

Stakeholders involved in building homes affected by mica and pyrite should be pursued to recoup some of the costs of the repairs to the properties, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has said.

Mr O’Brien told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show on Wednesday that he is “closing no door” in ensuring that those responsible “play their role financially”.

The current scheme to help rebuild houses is predicted to cost close to €1 billion, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday, and any revised scheme for homeowners in Mayo, Donegal, Clare and elsewhere would see costs increase. The Taoiseach also said he had asked the Attorney General to examine the role of block suppliers, designers and builders, banks and insurance companies as he had an issue with “people who have walked off the pitch”.

On Newstalk, Mr O’Brien said there is a “major issue around accountability and responsibility” regarding not only the product supplied, but for other stakeholders such as the insurance sector and the banking sector.


He said many of the properties due to be fixed with State funding are mortgaged and are assets to the banks, so “they do share a responsibility here in my view”.

“I don’t think it is a question that they [the banks] can just stand by and see the State fix it . . . If the State can then go after those for some of those costs I think we should,” he added.

In the short-term the Government must step in to ensure people’s homes are secure, but Mr O’Brien said the issue is not due to “necessarily regulation . . . Some of the regulations were very strong”.

“It is down to poor product, poor delivery of that product and poor construction of that product,” he added.

Mr O’Brien has said the final bill for the State was likely to be “substantially more” than €1 billion and potentially double that figure.

He told RTÉ Prime Time on Tuesday night his department was awaiting details from four local authorities – in Donegal, Mayo, Sligo and Clare – on the extent of the problem. While 5,000 homes were originally identified as affected, the final figure could be double this, he said.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said an enhanced support and redress scheme for the those affected should include payments for rents and other costs but it will still need some limits.

Speaking at a press event at Dublin Zoo on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar said that a precedent was set in relation to pyrite scheme which provides support up to 90 per cent of costs for homeowners. “I think we do have an obligation to help people who through no fault of their own are living in damaged and dangerous houses and as Taoiseach I set up that scheme to make sure they had 90 per cent redress.

“As some people said yesterday it is turning out to be way less than 90 per cent because of the other costs involved, like rent for example, which I believe should be covered, and like some of the upfront costs of having your house assessed. We are going to sit down over the course the next six weeks, come up with an enhanced scheme that is much fairer and much more favourable to the people affected, but we do need to put some limits on this.

“This is taxpayers’ money, the taxpayer isn’t to blame for this either. And we need to put some sort of limits or controls on this to make sure that we minimise the costs because you know €1 billion or a half billion is a lot of money, it’s the best part of the social housing budget for an entire year, think of it that way.

“It’s potentially 7,000 or 8,000 families that could otherwise be housed so we have to make sure we do right by the people in Donegal and Mayo and Clare and other places, but also bear in mind this is taxpayers money.” He said the Government will “absolutely make sure” that none of the homeowners are left homeless.

“There are people who may have to be provided with accommodation, temporary accommodation, and that will be done, but that’s not the solution. The solution is to repair and reinstate these homes and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Mr Varadkar was also asked about the companies or places that supplied materials and whether others needed to be held to account.

“I think those who are responsible for that should be held accountable for it and that hasn’t happened yet and there are particular reasons why that hasn’t happened that I can’t go into,” he said.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter