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Deputy Violet Anne Wynne has questioned the competence of the Housing Minister over delays with the new pyrite grant scheme.

Independents blast government over concrete levy

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‘ARROGANCE’ on the part of government was sharply criticised, by a Clare TD, during a debate on a new concrete levy, proposed as a method of funding the defective concrete blocks grant scheme. 

A private members’ motion, tabled by Sinn Féin, called for the levy to be scrapped and the suppliers of the defective products to be pursued vigorously for redress. While a promise to modify the terms of the levy in the forthcoming Finance Bill was enough to secure the support of backbenchers, including Deputies Cathal Crowe and Joe Carey, for the governments position, there was stinging criticism from Clares Independent TDs.

Deputy Michael McNamara asserted that the law underpinning the new scheme – which is to include Clare and Limerick – was badly drafted. He recalled the concerns of the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) at the scant level of pre-legislative scrutiny, and his own calls for legal action to be taken against suppliers.

“At the time the legislation was brought through the House last summer, I proposed amendments that would at least require the Minister to come back before the House and state how many cases were continued, how many new cases were initiated and what the procedure was for looking at whether there was a case against a quarry,” he said.

“However, the Government did not bother even looking at those amendments. The way that legislation was rammed through the House without even looking at how we, as a society, might recover at least some of the money it is going to cost to put these unfortunate people back in the position they should have been had somebody not supplied them with defective concrete blocks, and done so for profit, was an incredibly arrogant act by the Government.”

Deputy McNamara also hit out at the lack of progress on a government promise to take legal advice on pursuing producers and suppliers of defective materials.

“From the time people realise their houses are affected by pyrite, there is a limited period of time within which a case can be taken,” he noted.

“Twelve months after the Minister told the House about his extensive discussions with the Attorney General, nothing has been done. There have been no terms of reference or senior counsel, but what we have is a concrete levy which, in those circumstances, is unconscionable. That we will seek to recover this money from ordinary people is wrong.”

Independent TD Violet Anne Wynne also condemned the levy as a blunt instrument which would “punish” ordinary people, while letting the real culprits off the hook. 

“I am here to speak on behalf of the good people of County Clare in respect of the proposed levy of 10% on concrete blocks and products to be introduced next April,” she told the chamber. “This levy has drawn huge attention, and rightly so. In the midst of a homeless crisis that has embarrassingly and shamefully reached record numbers, what sense is there in having those who are trying to build or buy their own homes, or who have to rebuild their own homes, pay a further levy? It does not make sense.”

The former Sinn Féin member noted that 16 planning applications were granted in Clare last week and a further 21 were received. “These are, of course, young couples who are first-time home builders and retired people who have worked hard and paid into the State their whole lives,” she said. “There are farmers, the backbone of commerce and community in rural Ireland. None of these people ripped off decent and hard-working people by selling them defective concrete products, causing their homes to crumble around them, yet they are the very people the Government levy has been designed to punish.”

The Kilrush woman concluded by saying, “The answer here is not to target hard-working people building a home or those affected by pyrite and having to rebuild their homes. The answer is to get a move on with legislation to investigate the situation and hold the actual culprits to account properly and thoroughly and make them pay.”

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