Taoiseach not ruling out 100 per cent redress for mica homeowners

McGrath appeals to Opposition not to pass judgment before enhanced proposals issued

July 31st, 2021: Families affected by mica in Donegal are facing huge bills as talks with the Government over redress have stalled. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has refused to rule out a 100 per cent redress scheme for the thousands of people around the country whose homes are affected by mica.

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. Representatives of the homeowners in Donegal, Mayo and other counties have rejected an offer of 90 per cent redress and are demanding 100 per cent, a 40-year State guarantee and a public inquiry.

Speaking in New York, Mr Martin said that representatives of the homeowners will meet officials at the Department of Housing on Thursday, while Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is to meet them in the coming days.

“It’s complex, because you have different house sizes and a whole range of issues. But the whole purpose of the talks, is to get to a position whereby we can get houses repaired or rebuilt, whichever is the issue, have a system to do it property and in a much faster timeline than had been originally envisaged, and in a way that does not impose undue hardship or impositions on people,” Mr Martin said, adding that the Government is “committed to enhancing the original scheme that was there.

“It’s very unsatisfactory for homeowners and residents with their families to be living in accommodation where cracks are appearing and where obviously risks occur in such situations and that’s why we want to get these talks brought to a conclusion.”

In the Dáil on Wednesday, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath appealed for people not to pass judgment on the redress scheme in advance of the Government’s proposals, expected within weeks.

Mr McGrath said “everything is on the table” and “nothing had been ruled out”.

Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn described as “glib” comments by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar about the issue. “The Tánaiste lectured the families who are going through hell about the burden that a fair and just scheme would place on taxpayers and it not being the Government’s money. How dare he?

“The Tánaiste never gave such lectures to the families in Dublin, or north Leinster, who rightly and justly received 100 per cent redress when their homes were severely impacted by pyrite.”

He said “the families and the west of Ireland have been treated like second class citizens. They have been denied a fully funded 100 per cent redress scheme.

“This is completely unacceptable, and leaves families who have done nothing wrong with massive bills and they cannot afford to pay such glib comments are attempting to turn public opinion had a devastating impact on the families.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said “these are families who through no fault of their own, they find themselves in a horrific situation where their houses are cracking and falling asunder around them.

“The human toll of this ordeal has been heart breaking. This has had unbearable mental distress on families.”

The Donegal TD said he lived in Buncrana “the epicentre” of the disaster. “We know families and people who’ve been close to emotional breakdown, people who are close to financial ruin.”

He added that “this scandal has left deep scars in our community”.

Mr McGrath said “there is a deep appreciation within Government of how serious this issue is, and the life changing nature of this issue for the families who are affected by mica in Donegal and Mayo and Meath and indeed in a number of other counties where the issue has emerged”.

He said “that is why the Government has put in place a process to try to bring about a resolution to this issue.

“I have listened to the heartfelt stories from the families who are impacted and I can only imagine what they’re going through the worry that they’re having carrying every single day.

“And the main point I want to make sure is that everything is on the table and Government has ruled out nothing in relation to what will be needed here to support those families.

He said the working group established by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is looking at submissions by the thousands of affected families. Mr O’Brien will examine the working group’s report expected by the end of this month and will then make a decision on what is needed.

“Once we have all of the information on the table, and I expect that we will have that know very shortly, and we look forward to bringing forward a proposal that I expect will represent a very significant enhancement and improvement in the existing scheme.”