The issue of redress for mica-affected homeowners "dominated" the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, with significant support for those campaigning for 100 per cent redress, sources indicated on Wednesday evening.
The Government is coming under increasing pressure to improve the level of financial support for those whose homes are falling apart due to faulty bricks containing mica.
Donegal TD Joe McHugh, who has called for 100 per cent redress, was among those to contribute to the meeting, which sources said heard from about 20 members of the parliamentary party, most of whom spoke in support of the former minister for education.
Mr McHugh is campaigning for 100 per cent redress, alongside Clare TD Joe Carey, who spoke at the meeting. Mayo TD Alan Dillon also made a contribution to the first in-person meeting of the parliamentary party in many months.
Sources said Ministers of State Patrick O'Donovan, Damien English and Frankie Feighan spoke in support of their party colleagues campaigning on the mica issue. Seanad leader Regina Doherty, Senator Garrett Ahern, Senator Sean Kyne, and Kerry TD Brendan Griffin all did so as well, said sources.
Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar is said to have acknowledged the contributions and told the meeting that a 100 per cent redress scheme was still on the table, according to several sources. Earlier this week the Tánaiste said that such a scheme would entail significant costs to the taxpayer.
“It would have been a brave man to stand up in that room and not acknowledge the mood . . . which was unanimous,” said one source.
‘Living in fear’
Mr Varadkar said the Department of Housing was working on the scheme and it would have to be approved by Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath’s department before going to Cabinet.
“The message from nearly everyone [was] . . . be on the side of the people living in stress and fear every single day, that’s the mood,” said a source.
“The whole meeting was in favour of doing the right thing and looking after people and addressing the issue,” said another.
The meeting also heard a speech from parliamentary party chairman Richard Bruton. He emphasised the importance of unity in the party and to capitalise on the end of coronavirus restrictions and the opportunity to work in the same physical space together again.
The meeting also heard Fine Gael plans to publish its Care of the Child document following feedback from more than 2,500 people, from across the childcare sector.
On Tuesday, Mr Varadkar cautioned that the ultimate cost of any redress scheme had to be borne in mind. Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, he said he understood the stress faced by families and the need to bring forward a solution. But he warned: “We do have to bear in mind the impact on the general taxpayer as well. Ultimately it’s not the Government that pays for this, it’s the taxpayer, the average working person. That’s why we have to make sure that there’s some form of cost control on it.”
He also noted that there were many other defective buildings, including defective apartment buildings, in his constituency.
“We need to do something for them too but we have to have some sense of what the total cost will be and we have to bear in mind that this is taxpayers money.”