In the following Dáil exchange the ongoing plight of home-owners affected by Mica in Co. Donegal is put to the new Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly T.D. The Minister is asked if he has met with the Donegal Mica Action group and if he would consider establishing a scheme for affected consumers affected by defective materials similar to the Pyrite Resolution scheme already in operation. The Minister states that he does not intend to amend the Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 or extend the Pyrite Resolution Board powers to investigate the alleged use of defective blocks in the construction of the houses in Co. Donegal.
He suggests that “In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the relevant contracting parties…and in the event that the parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. It may also be the case that some of the homes affected are covered by a structural guarantee / structural insurance and homeowners may wish to pursue this avenue for redress.”
We wonder is the point being missed?
What builder, professional or homeowner has €200,000 at hand to rebuild a house that has defective blocks? The parties may be honest and diligent but they have no option when the insurer does not cover a claim (as happened with pyrite). It is either very uncertain and costly litigation or a plea to the Minister in the Dáil. That is why we need to make sure that this problem does not arise in the first place with adequate policing of materials by Local Authorities.
We note at the time of writing that there has been no industry alert from the Department of the Environment or Local Authorities regarding Mica in blockwork or any other concrete product or element. Local Authorities are the designated policing bodies for construction materials nationwide and remain seriously under-resourced.
Dáil Written answers – Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Department of Environment, Community and Local Government
Pádraig MacLochlainn (Donegal North East, Sinn Fein)
1489. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government further to Parliamentary Question No. 559 of 27 May 2014 to outline the contacts he has had with the Mica Action Group in County Donegal; if he will consider meeting with the group; if he will consider the establishment of a redress scheme similar to that established under the auspices of the Pyrite Resolution Board; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33131/14]
Charlie McConalogue (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
1563. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will permit the Pyrite Resolution Board to consider the emerging situation in County Donegal with respect to defective blocks; if not, the plans he has to address this problem in County Donegal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34188/14]
Charlie McConalogue (Donegal North East, Fianna Fail)
1564. To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he has given consideration to the issue of defective blocks in County Donegal; his Department’s advice on the way affected householders might be able to proceed in engaging with his Department on this issue; the financial supports available for people who find themselves in this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [34189/14]
Alan Kelly (Tipperary North, Labour)
I propose to take Questions Nos. 1489, 1563 and 1564 together.
At the outset, I wish to acknowledge the stressful situations which individuals face when building works are not completed to the required acceptable standard.
In November 2013, my Department was made aware through reports in the media of a potential problem with concrete blocks in County Donegal. In addition, in recent months, my Department has received correspondence from Donegal County Council, from public representatives and from the Mica Action Group itself in connection with the alleged use of defective blocks in the construction of the houses in north Donegal which appear to be giving rise to structural problems in those homes. I also understood that the Mica Action Group met with a representative of the Pyrite Resolution Board earlier this year.
From the information provided, my Department understands that claims have been made which suggest that between 1,000 and 2,000 dwellings are affected in north Donegal. It is also suggested that the affected dwellings were constructed between 1999 and 2006. However, no evidence has been supplied to substantiate these figures nor is there definitive information as to the cause of the problem.
In general, building defects are matters for resolution between the relevant contracting parties, i.e. the homeowner, the builder, the supplier and/or their respective insurers and in the event that the parties cannot reach a settlement by negotiation the option of seeking redress in the Courts can be considered. It may also be the case that some of the homes affected are covered by a structural guarantee / structural insurance and homeowners may wish to pursue this avenue for redress. While I fully understand the extremely difficult and distressing situations that the affected householders in Donegal face, I believe that the responsible parties should take appropriate actions to provide remedies to their difficulties.
The Pyrite Resolution Act 2013 provides the statutory framework for the establishment of the Pyrite Resolution Board and for the making of a pyrite remediation scheme. However, the provisions of the Act apply only to dwellings affected by significant damage attributable to pyritic heave consequent on the presence of reactive pyrite in the subfloor hardcore material and not to damage arising in any other circumstance. The Pyrite Resolution Board has no powers to investigate the alleged use of defective blocks in the construction of the houses in County Donegal and I have no proposals to amend the Act in this regard.
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