State to provide ‘exceptional resources’ to make homes with mica defects liveable

State should not be left to foot bills for failings of people who have walked away, Martin says

Protesters attending a demonstration in Dublin  demanding  a 100 per cent  redress scheme for homes and properties affected by bricks contaminated with mica. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Protesters attending a demonstration in Dublin demanding a 100 per cent redress scheme for homes and properties affected by bricks contaminated with mica. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

 

The Government has said it may pursue builders, block suppliers, developers, lenders and insurers after giving a commitment to implement a revised scheme to fix severe damage to thousands of homes affected by mica and pyrite.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the revised scheme to rectify the damage caused by mica to some 5,000 homes would cost more than €1 billion. A scheme established by the previous government last year was estimated to cost close to €1 billion, but he believed the adjusted programme “will go over that”.

Micas are minerals found in rocks used to make blocks which draw in moisture and begin to crumble, causing cracks to open up in buildings.

Thousands of affected home owners, predominantly from Donegal but also from Mayo, Clare and Sligo, protested outside the Convention Centre in Dublin where the Dáil was sitting yesterday [ TUESDAY]. They later marched to demonstrate outside Leinster House, calling for repairs and remediation to be fully funded by the State.

Mr Martin told the Dáil that “the Government is absolutely committed to doing the right thing and will provide exceptional resources to make these homes liveable again”.

He also warned that “the State can’t forever be held accountable alone in respect of behaviours or actions where others fell short, be it in the private sector or elsewhere”.

‘Walked off the pitch’

The Taoiseach said he has asked the Attorney General to examine the role of block suppliers, designers and builders, banks and insurance companies as he had an issued with “people who have walked off the pitch”.

His warning was later echoed by Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien during a debate on a Sinn Féin motion demanding that the Government provide “100 per cent redress, including remediation, storage and temporary accommodation costs” to those affected by the mica issue.

The motion also demanded that those responsible for the manufacture of defective blocks are held to account that that “industry contributes to the overall cost of remediating defective properties”.The motion was passed and the Government did not oppose it.

Mr O’Brien said the Government had to look at those who “have responsibility, such as the insurers, producers or lenders.

“Many of these (homes) are their assets that will be remediated or brought back by the State to full value, and people are still paying mortgages,” he said.

“I don’t want that to delay the changes that we need to make to the scheme”, which he insisted would provide “ a very clear pathway out of this scourge”.

Mr O’Brien, who met the Mica Action Group at Leinster House yesterday, has proposed a “time-bound working group” to deal with “specific issues that have been highlighted” and to report by the end of next month.

90 per cent

The current compensation scheme for home owners currently offers up to 90 per cent of the rebuilding or remediation costs, but during the debate, Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said that for many the redress worked out at 70 per cent or less.

The Donegal TD said many families were precluded from the current scheme because they had to have an engineer’s report which cost up to €7,000 to enter the scheme. His party colleague Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, a fellow Donegal TD who has highlighted the issue since it first emerged in 2013, said families in the county had been devastated by mica and pyrite.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said builders’ providers in Donegal who supplied defective blocks denied responsibility but “blamed the lax regulations” and certification rules.

She said there was also a lot of anger at Donegal County Council, which continued to use the same suppliers for their own social housing developments, and many companies involved changed their names but continued to operate.

Untold misery

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald earlier said people living in homes destroyed by faulty blocks are suffering serious stress to their mental health. The flaws had inflicted untold misery on the families affected, she said.

“They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down,” Ms McDonald said.

She repeatedly asked the Taoiseach to give a commitment that the State would pay 100 per cent of remediation costs as she cited owners facing face bills of up to €100,000, which they could not afford.

Mr Martin declined to say that 100 per cent funding would be made available, but insisted that the money provided to deal with the problem would be far in excess of that previously announced.