Taoiseach Micheál Martin refuses to commit to 100% redress scheme for mica-stricken Donegal home-owners

Taoiseach Micheál Martin refused to commit to 100 per cent redress scheme for mica-stricken homeowners in Donegal under questioning from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald in the Dáil.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 12:04 pm

Deputy Martin described the predicament of homeowners in the county as 'scandalous', 'appalling' and 'devastating' however he said he favoured a six week analysis of affected homes rather than committing to a 100 per cent redress scheme now.

Speaking on Tuesday while thousands of affected citizens from the north west gathered outside the Convention Centre in Dublin where the Dáil was sitting, Mrs. McDonald said: "This nightmare needs to come to an end.

"These families have been failed by the system and by the State and the current scheme fails them again. They cannot be left in this situation. The only fair solution, therefore, is for the Government to deliver a 100% redress schemes and to do so urgently. I ask the Taoiseach directly to give us and them a clear, unambiguous commitment that the Government will deliver a 100% redress scheme."

Taoiseach Micheál Martin
Taoiseach Micheál Martin

The Taoiseach replied: "First, what has happened to the homeowners in County Donegal, and indeed in counties Mayo, Clare and elsewhere but particularly the vast majority in Donegal, is scandalous.

"It is devastating for those homeowners. I visited one such home last week owned by the Murtagh family in Raphoe. Last year, I saw the outsides of other houses. What has happened is appalling. We all know the impact it can have on people when one of the key objectives in life to build their family home, and the sweat, toil and effort that entails, is taken away from them, in this case by the supply and provision of defective blocks.

"The Government's and my view is that we will do everything we possibly can to help the homeowners and to refine, amend and change this scheme, in consultation with the Mica Action Group, with a view to making sure we have a sustainable scheme that can bring these homes back, make them habitable for the families and give them the experience they originally envisaged when they first took out the mortgage and provided for themselves to build a house.

"In fairness, the previous Government, working with the Mica Action Group at the time, brought in the scheme in January 2020 in very good faith. In fact, it was accepted all around. I recall the Sinn Féin spokesman at the time, Deputy Mac Lochlainn, welcomed confirmation of the scheme back then. He identified some issues, in that he believed the banks should have been involved in helping. It is fair to say that it initially got broad acceptance, however. I do not, therefore, believe assertions of bad faith on anyone's part are correct. Everybody wants to do and is interested in doing the right thing here."

Deputy Martin said he has written to the Mica Action Group and it his view that 'we should set in train a time-bound process lasting approximately six weeks involving the Mica Action Group, representatives from the different counties, the local authorities and the Department to work on the scheme and iron out all the issues'.

"I refer to the figure of €100,000. Nobody wants someone to be caught for €100,000. I acknowledge there are issues about upfront costs that must be dealt with. There are issues around people having to rent accommodation while their house is being rebuilt, which have to be dealt with. There also are other issues and supports that we may be in a position to provide.

"I believe that we have to carry out an analysis, however. A number of applications have come in. When I spoke with Donegal County Council, it said that 33% of those houses would have to be rebuilt. An analysis of what has come in so far might give us a good picture of how we amend and improve this scheme overall. Motions will come and go but the work must be done to improve this scheme and ensure that homeowners can avail of it to get their houses rebuilt or repaired without any undue impact on them.

"The scale this programme will be far in excess of any other entered into so far. The Department's estimate of the original scheme, which was entered into in good faith, was close to €1 billion. I believe we will go over that €1 billion. The defective argument is also important. Some 31 local building control authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement," he said.

Under persistent questioning from Mrs. McDonald, however, the Taoiseach refused to commit to a 100 per cent redress scheme at this point in time.