Mica: Fianna Fáil meeting hears call for Government to pay 100% of costs

Taoiseach says people aged 30-39 can register for Covid-19 vaccine ‘over the next day or two’

Mayo TD Dara Calleary said the entire costs should be granted under the scheme, which is estimated to cost the exchequer up to €1.5bn. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Mayo TD Dara Calleary said the entire costs should be granted under the scheme, which is estimated to cost the exchequer up to €1.5bn. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Government must pay for 100 per cent of families’ costs arising from problems with defective blocks in their homes, and sort the issue before the Dáil rises for its summer recess, the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party has heard.

Dara Calleary, TD for Mayo, where the mineral pyrite has affected many homes, told the party’s weekly meeting on Wednesday night that delays are “adding to the mental torture of homeowners”.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has also indicated support for a 100 per cent scheme.

With the Government resisting calls to meet 100 per cent of the remediation works needed for people’s homes, Mr Calleary said the entire costs should be granted under the scheme, which is estimated to cost the exchequer up to €1.5 billion.

The meeting also heard from Taoiseach Micheál Martin that registration of people aged 30-39 for vaccination would be “over the next day or two”, and said keeping to the basics would be vital to “keep the lid” on the Delta variant currently causing a surge of infection in the UK.

Mr Martin told the meeting that the reopening of society is “working” and had been helped by the cooperation of people, which he wanted to recognise. He said June would be the biggest month of the vaccination programme so far, with levels of people being vaccinated up to 340,000 per week at the moment.

Several TDs raised concerns about the rollout of AstraZeneca, which the HSE is racing to distribute to those who have received their first shot as part of an accelerated programme to respond to the threat of the Delta variant.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly told the meeting that second doses would be completed in the week beginning July 12th – a week earlier than suggested by the HSE on Wednesday.

As news of the Irish Times poll broke in the meeting, which showed Fianna Fáil up six points, Laois-Offaly TD Barry Cowen asked when the review of the last general election would be complete, as it needed to be done before the next one.

Cormac Devlin, TD for Dún Laoghaire, said he knew of people who received their first shot in February and are still waiting on their second jab.

However, issues around defective building blocks dominated much of the meeting.

Mr Martin said that the Government is determined to deal with this issue “once and for all”, adding that there is “no excuse for putting defective blocks onto the market place”. He said the Government plans to help families in distress and that it is “devastating” to witness the impact on families.

Senator Lisa Chambers said a scheme in the east of the country had received 100 per cent redress, and that the people of the west and northwest “expect the same and rightly so”.

She also said allowances should be made for people whose affected property is not their primary residence, citing the example of a woman who moved out of her home on marrying, but still is paying the mortgage.

The meeting also heard contributions from Senators Timmy Dooley and Niall Blaney on defective blocks. Mr Dooley said the scheme should be extended to Clare, his former Dáil constituency, and a representative from the county should be put on the committee established by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to address the issue.

TDs and Senators from Fianna Fáil also agreed in principle that the party’s leadership should seek to introduce a regime of rapid antigen testing for international travel.

The motion, which was put down by the party’s transport spokesman and TD for Clare Cathal Crowe, asks that the Government “urgently move to introduce a regime of rapid antigen testing in order to make international travel during the Covid pandemic affordable, uncomplicated and, above all, safe”.

It comes after a fractious meeting between the chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, and the Oireachtas transport committee, which saw the chief medical officer and other members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) double down on their objections to the use of rapid antigen tests.

The meeting also heard that antigen testing should be used for live events, and welcomed that colleges would be back in September using the technology.

Mr Martin also supported a suggestion that the Dáil debate a banking commission on the future of banking from rebel backbencher John McGuinness, TD for Carlow-Kilkenny, which was endorsed by the parliamentary party.

Mr McGuinness’ motion noted recent departures of KBC and Ulster Bank from Ireland, and the closure of a third of Bank of Ireland’s branch network.

The party agreed that as economies grow and change, there is a need for more sophisticated credit and financial services products to fund enterprises and infrastructure, to assist people to save for retirement and to provide new credit options. It also agreed to call for more regulator powers for the Central Bank in relation to the closure of local bank branches.