Council says that it has received no correspondence from Department of Housing
GOVERNMENT officials have been accused of “playing a little bit of jiggery pokery” over the decision on giving Clare homeowners access to the defective blocks grant.
Alarm was expressed at a meeting in Ennis between politicians and the Clare Pyrite Action Group, over differing accounts on the status of the council’s application to access the grant.
Two Oireachtas members, who spoke to the Housing Minister ahead of the meeting, said he told them his Department is waiting for a response to queries about the report the council submitted in July.
The meeting was also told that the Council had received no such correspondence, as of Friday. As of this Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Council told The Champion that no queries have yet been received.
At Friday’s meeting, Deputy Joe Carey outlined how the Minister Darragh O’Brien had told him his department has raised queries with the Council.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday night and asked him, ‘What is the update? When will we be included?’ He said, ‘Joe, you can tell the group that you’ve met me, some queries have issued from the Department of Housing back down to Clare County Council and Clare County Council have to answer and respond to those queries’.
“He didn’t anticipate any problem. Clare County Council have to respond to the queries. I don’t know what those queries are, but the Council have to respond back.
“He assured me that once his department receives the correspondence back that they will move on it and move on it quickly. I think it’s reasonable to say that we will be included this side of Christmas.”
Senator Timmy Dooley supported Deputy Carey’s account of the Minister’s position.
“The Department in fairness to them are playing a little bit of jiggery pokery with us, because the reality is there’s pyrite,” Senator Doolely said.
“We know there’s pyrite. The local authority know how to deliver a scheme and we need to get on with it.”
Referring to the Minister’s comments, the Fianna Fail member said: “He said, exactly as he said to Joe, [that] there’s a couple of queries that the Department have sent back.”
Senator Dooley also told the meeting that he had phoned Director of Services Anne Haugh who had received nothing from the Department.
“I’m around a while and I know how the Department and departments generally can be very positive about doing stuff but when it comes to it, they know how to drag their heels for all sorts of reasons,” he said.
“I think the commitment that we have from the top table and from every party is that we’re not going to let them do that… I’m reasonably hopeful that we’ll get this over the line by Christmas.”
That timeframe was also given by Deputy Cathal Crowe who told the meeting he was “very confident” that Clare will be added to the scheme by December.
Senator Roisin Garvey said that after representations she has made, she anticipates “good news” in December.
Senator Martin Conway said he would not defend any delay.
“Whether it is the Department, whether it is officials at Clare County Council level, there should have been an awful lot more synchronisation,” he said.
“There should have been an awful lot clearer streams of communication between the Department and the council.
“It’s a shocking state of affairs that the Minister is telling us the Department has sent out a couple of queries but yet Clare County Council haven’t received them.
“That’s the type of thing that shouldn’t be happening. We all live in the age of email. If an email goes from the Department, it’s there within seconds. There’s something wrong somewhere.”
In response to a query from The Champion, a council spokesperson said on Wednesday that: “At the time of writing the Council has not received communication from the Department of Housing with queries on the initial report submitted”.