Fianna Fáil TDs have told Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the concrete blocks levy needs to be reexamined, with Mr Martin agreeing to the establishment of a new group to address the growing political concerns.
One source said the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening was dominated by the issue and that after party TDs voiced more concerns about the planned levy, Mr Martin agreed to the establishment of a small committee which would meet with the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath.
It was agreed that this group will tease out any issues in advance of the forthcoming Finance Bill, which will give effect to the controversial ten per cent levy. The composition of the group will be decided in the coming days and the first meeting could be held as early as Monday or Tuesday.
There has been political disquiet over the issue amid conflicting figures about how much it could add to the price of building a home. According to a Department of Finance analysis, the levy will add up to €1,600 towards the building costs of a three-bed semidetached house. The Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, however, said it could add €4,000.
It is understood that Dublin TD John Lahart was the first to raise the issue of concrete blocks, telling the meeting of a number of areas where the levy should be reexamined including school buildings, libraries, turnkey projects and other builds.
Sources in Fianna Fáil now believe there will a large list of exemptions to the levy which could, in effect, water it down, while some sources in Fine Gael are pushing for a delay in the introduction of the levy.
This is the second week that backbenchers have expressed concern at parliamentary party meetings about the levy. The issue also arose at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar telling his party that the exact details would be worked out by the time the Finance Bill comes before the Dáil on October 20th.
Mr Varadkar said the levy should be the onus of the construction industry and not the average taxpayer.
Meanwhile the Fianna Fáil meeting heard calls from TDs that the exiled TD Marc MacSharry should be allowed to rejoin the party. One source said Barry Cowen made the proposal, which was seconded by Senator Diarmuid Wilson. It was agreed that since he resigned the whip, he must reapply as per the rules of the party. Mr Martin said that recently spoke with Mr MacSharry and is due to speak with him again shortly.
The Fianna Fáil meeting also heard calls from Cork North Central TD Padraig O’Sullivan to introduce a full package of supports for Thalidomide victims, while there were also calls for a full State apology.