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Advocates fear lack of scrutiny of new defective blocks bill 

A GENERAL scheme for the new Bill to revise the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme is to be considered by Government in the next fortnight. 

The Department of Housing told The Champion that “work on the formulation of the General Scheme for the enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme is ongoing”, but refused to be drawn on the issue of Pre-Legislative Scrutiny.

The potential absence of this consultative phase in drafting the legislation, is a matter of major concern for the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) and advocates around Ireland. 

In a letter to Clare’s Oireachtas members, the CPAG said that to “under no circumstances can we accept a situation where Pre-Legislative Scrutiny would not be carried out on the new Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme”.

The group has reiterated concerns over aspects of the new scheme, including the damage threshold; access to an independent engineer and testing; and the focus on remediation options other than demolition. 

“It is very important that these issues are fully examined, through the due process of pre-legislative scrutiny, and for this reason it is essential that all our elected representatives ensure this happens,” the CPAG letter stated. “Whatever new legislation is put into place, it will impact thousands of homeowners in County Clare and beyond for decades to come, and must therefore be transparently and fairly considered.”

In response to a query, the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government (DHHLG) said: “The Minister aims to bring the required primary legislation to give effect to the enhanced scheme before the Oireachtas as soon as possible.

“Work on the formulation of the General Scheme for the enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme is ongoing. The General Scheme is expected to be considered by Government over the coming fortnight. We are not in a position to comment on the issue of Pre-Legislative Scrutiny pending that consideration by Government.”

The ‘general scheme’ of a Bill sometimes undergoes pre-legislative scrutiny by an Oireachtas Committee. The committee may invite stakeholders to meetings to discuss the general scheme or draft heads of the Bill.

About Fiona McGarry

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 fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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