Mica legislation ‘not fit for purpose’, says Sinn Féin

Deputy leader Pearse Doherty says legislation should be amended or rejected

Legislation underpinning the €2.7 billion mica redress scheme is “not fit for purpose”, Sinn Féin has said.

The party’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the legislation was “itself defective” and wouldn’t meet the needs of affected homeowners and either needed to be amended or “rejected”.

Mr Doherty was speaking as the Dáil debated the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged By the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022 on Thursday.

The legislation will establish a scheme to provide grants to homeowners in Donegal, Mayo and other counties to repair defects caused by the mineral, which has led building blocks to crumble.

Mr Doherty said the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien hadn’t listened to the pleas of campaigners and that hundreds of people would not be able to avail of the scheme unless the bill was amended.

“This scheme would require them to put their hands in their pockets to the tune of tens of thousands of euros, that we know they simply don’t have,” the Donegal TD said.

The party’s spokesman for housing Eoin Ó Broin said there was a “growing gap” between what the housing minister “is saying he is doing and what is actually in the bill and on offer to affected homeowners”.

“Many of us have been talking to those homeowners since the publication of the legislation over a week ago,” he said.

“The emotions they are expressing to us are anger, frustration and a sense of being very badly let down. They, and we, are deeply unhappy with the rushed nature of the legislation.”

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said only two hours had been allotted next week for committee and remaining stages of the bill, which would not allow TDs give it proper scrutiny.

The Dublin Bay North TD said there was a “pattern” developing from the minister, whereby legislation that was not contentious was given ample time for discussion but when it came to more complex and contentious legislation the time allocated was “shoehorned”.

“We know from previous experience that rushed legislation is bad legislation,” he added.

Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said there had to be “far greater urgency” in pursuing “why this happened and those who caused it”

“When you consider that in the UK £2 billion has been put on the table by the industry in relation to the cladding situation, that is the kind of response we need to see here,” he said.

“We need to see a contribution, not a levy because that will be passed back, out of profits from some of the most profitable companies in the country to actually pay towards this and other issues, such as the apartment defects issue.”

The Mayo TD said there was also a lack of response and engagement from banks, who were slow in co-operating and assisting homeowners as had insurance companies, which were “welshing out on contracts across the country because of the suspicion of pyrite, mica or pyrrhotite”.

“Insurance companies and banks need to be brought to heel and told they have to serve the people in relation to this,” he added.

“The Government is putting its cards on the table here and, equally, we need to see a far greater engagement with companies such as that.”

Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins said the reality of inflation had to be acknowledged and that Ireland “is in a different space from where we were in February”.

“Given how much construction costs have increased since the funding model was drawn up, it is critical we ensure payments are adequate, fair and equitable, even now, because these families need to access the right amount of money to build safe homes,” she said.

Mr O’Brien said the scheme was “a dramatic leap forward” towards a “100 per cent grant scheme” and went a “long way” to addressing the concerns and needs of homeowners.

“I do recognise homeowners’ concerns and fears around the proposed enhanced scheme,” the Minister said.

“They feel their trust has been let down before and I want to assure them here today that we are committed to making this scheme work and will continually strive to ensure it is improved where that is needed.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times