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Further protests likely over defective blocks issue

FURTHER national protests on the defective concrete blocks issue are likely, after the Department of Housing indicated it is unlikely to increase the level of redress available to homeowners.

A position paper drawn up as part of a review of the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme also warned that any extension of the scheme to Clare, and other counties, will require very serious consideration.

At the end of last month, the County Council submitted detailed evidence to support a call for the extension of the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme to Clare.

The authority also backed calls for an extension of redress levels from 90 to 100%. In its position paper, the Department of Housing has confirmed that Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Sligo are seeking access to the scheme.

It added that any changes that contribute to the further rise in the project costs of the programme – which could potentially have an upper ceiling of €2.5billion – would need detailed consideration by the Department of Housing and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deep frustration has been expressed, meanwhile, by members of a working group from Donegal and Mayo, which are the only two counties currently covered by the scheme.

Following a major protest in Dublin in June and unanimous backing for a motion to increase redress to 100%, the working group was tasked with reviewing the scheme. Its planned report has been deferred to the end of September and members of action groups in both counties have stepped away from the process.

The position paper, which was leaked to RTÉ, suggests that the Department does not favour increasing the level of redress. It does appear to be willing to pay homeowner’s rental costs in situations where they have to move out of their homes.

It also seems to reject calls for a public inquiry into the defective materials issue, but is prepared to pursue quarries and seek a contribution from the banks to the redress scheme.

The position paper – which the Department insists is not its final decision on the matter – also suggests that homeowners will be required to keep some fixtures and fittings if their homes are demolished and use these in the new builds. This is because the Department will not fund energy upgrades.

Paddy Diver of the Donegal Mica Action Group said he would be calling on affected homeowners, including those in Clare, to join another protest in Dublin later this year.

Meanwhile, a request from The Champion for a timeframe from the Department on its consideration of the Clare application received no response.

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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