LEGISLATION underpinning the revised scheme for homeowners with defective blocks has passed all stages in the Seanad and will be signed by the President.
The Bill was debated in the upper house of the Oireachtas last week and while 69 amendments were tabled, the legislation went through largely unchanged.
Senator Timmy Dooley told the chamber that despite the work done to date, concerns remain for many, including members of the Clare Pyrite Action Group.
Paying tribute to its members, he described Dr Martina Cleary and Mary Hanley as “two formidable women who have worked hard to put together a comprehensive response” to the Bill.
“One of the main issues I hear about from Clare homeowners concerns the damage threshold, he told the Seanad. “There is a belief that it will determine who will be accepted under the scheme. As yet, that damage threshold has not been determined. People are worried that when regulations on this are set, 90% of applicants could be refused.”
“These are the concerns that have been raised with me. I am raising them to give the Minister an opportunity to address them, hopefully in the relatively short time we have.
“All homes with pyrite block damage should be included in the scheme. The damage threshold, if it is to be in legislation, should be used only to prioritise the order of remediation and not prevent homes that are damaged from qualifying.”
As the Bill moved through the various stages in the Seanad, Deputy Dooley also raised the vexed question of pursuing those who had supplied defective materials in the first place.
“If the State is going to spend €4 billion of taxpayers’ money on this redress – and I suspect by the time it is completed it will be multiples of that – there is an encumbrance on the State to take action against those who, either through wilful neglect or abject failure, have allowed that to happen on their watch,” the Fianna Fáil member said.
“It is to recover what the State will spend on behalf of the other taxpayers. By the way, the people whose homes will be rebuilt are taxpayers too.
“They would prefer their tax euro to be going into public services to increase our capacity in the health service, put more Gardaí on the street and more nurses in our wards than into rebuilding their homes, which though essential, should not have been necessary.
“It is right and fitting the State should pursue to the nth degree those who still have capital reserves and those companies that are very profitable.
“I hope we around here are alive to see that day come, even if they have to be taken through the courts to enlighten us as to what went on.
“Through the courts there must be discovery and all of that, which I hope will give us some insight into the way these people looked on those concerned here.”
Fine Gael’s Senator Martin Conway, meanwhile, noted the limitations of the Bill. He appealed to the minister to allow the legislation to be amended in the future if problems arise.
“The legislation before us will be very expensive and it is a significant improvement on other presentations of legislation in the past,” he said.
“I understand clearly that it is not what everybody wants, but we in this Chamber and those in the Dáil can alter and amend legislation, if we find that it is clearly not working.
“I wish to see the scheme rolled out very efficiently and quickly, with little red tape, and boots on the ground in the counties affected to ensure people can be assessed and dealt with quickly.
“The last thing we want is to see a scheme surrounded and pulled down by bureaucracy. We have seen it time and again with schemes in this country. We cannot let that happen, because time is of the essence. This has gone on too long and we cannot delay it any further.”
“However, if unintended situations happen during that initiation period, I ask that the Minister be prepared and open-minded enough to come in with amending legislation to deal with it, because we have the power in this House to legislate, but we also have the power to amend legislation and that is not a bad thing.
“It is important that legislation evolves and is reflective of a particular situation, because there are unintended consequences in many areas.
“I have no doubt about and would not question for one minute the sincerity of the Minister in this and with the best will in the world, there may be elements of the legislation that do not and cannot work in practice, for whatever reason. In that situation, we have to have the courage of our convictions to amend.”
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 065 6864146.