‘Listen, before it’s too late,’ homeowners pleadMW

Homeowners left devastated by the impact of defective blocks have pleaded with the government to ‘listen, before it is too late.’

A joint statement was issued yesterday by the representatives of the homeowners, across Donegal, Mayo, Clare, Limerick and Sligo, as the Defective Block bill reached Second Stage and was debated in Dail Eireann yesterday.

In the statement, which was read into Dail Eireann yesterday by Sinn Fein’s Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, the homeowners confirmed they have put forward 80 amendments ‘to make this scheme work.’

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They said: “It is imperative that the voice of the homeowners, the victims of defective materials, is heard and that the Government TDs, those individuals that we have voted into office, listen before it is too late. Listen, because to date, you have not listened.

Homeowners outside Dail Eireann yesterday. Picture: Ali Farren.

“We are angry, frustrated and the endless torture will not be tolerated to go on a minute further.”

The homeowners said that if the Bill is not amended, homeowners will not support it.

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Yesterday, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the government was ‘committed’ to making the scheme work. He described the defective blocks crisis as a ‘disaster’ that has ‘haunted the lives of people in Donegal and Mayo for far too long.’

The Minister said that people had bought their homes ‘to make a life’ and then ‘saw their dreams crumbling around them’ and ‘instead of shelter from the storm,’ houses became ‘prisons.’ He added that the new scheme is ‘a dramatic leap forward towards an 100% grant scheme.’

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Also in the Dail yesterday, in which many homeowners sat in the gallery, Opposition TDs urged the Minister to ensure enough time is given next week, when the Bill goes to Committee stage, in order to address each submitted amendment.

They also raised numerous issues including the inclusion of foundations, the penalties for downsizing properties, rising inflation, the grant cap, deleterious materials, current regulation and urged the State to pursue those responsible for the scandal.

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Donegal North East TD Charlie McConalogue welcomed the ‘important step’ of the legislation coming before the House and what is a ‘crucial step’ in ensuring homeowners in his native Donegal can ‘get their lives back on track and try and remove themselves from a nightmare they’ve been living for well over a decade’.

The Inishowen-based Deputy said the crisis has impacted on people’s mental and physical health and put ‘immense strain’ on family life.

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Deputy McConalogue said there is ‘more work to be done’ including in the areas surrounding deleterious materials but that the scheme is in a ‘strong place.’

Deputy Eoin O’Brien hit out at what was seen as the rushed nature of the Bill and said homeowners have been expressing emotions of anger, frustration and a sense of being very badly let down.

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In the statement yesterday, homeowners outlined how, over the past ten years, they ‘ have engaged endlessly with different government officials and government parties.’

“We have entered talks bringing with us our lived experience of this nightmare. Arming each official with the practical solutions of what is needed on the ground to deliver a scheme that will rebuild our homes. At each stage we have encountered obstacles. We had been delivered a scheme that was so flawed it proved financially unviable, and practically unworkable to be of any use for impacted homeowners.”

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They claimed that the new scheme presented to the Press was a ‘trojan horse’ and ‘spin that said it was indeed 100%, when it is not.’

They added how they had provided solutions to various issues. “Solutions were presented for rental property and holiday home inclusion, an increase on the max grant available, inclusion of foundations, the controversial Damage Threshold assessment, to name a few.”

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The homeowners described the scheme that was then delivered as ‘contempt for us homeowners.’

The homeowners called on TDs to listen carefully to the amendments put forward: “Over the past week, and pressed to the wall we have worked around the clock to put forward 80 amendments to make this scheme work.

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“80 amendments because that are the number of failures in this bill.

“We the homeowners are calling on you the elected TDs to listen carefully to the amendments put forward.

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“They have come from the insight and suffering over long years of those who know what it means to live in these homes.

“The new scheme will not work without these amendments. By ignoring us again, you are wasting more money, destroying more lives.

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“While we wait on the IS465 review which we need to include all deleterious materials scientifically proven to be problematic, along with foundations, you must ensure for us, your electorate these amendments are made.”

They said they would not support the bill if it is not amended: “Minister let us be clear, so our words are not misunderstood. If this bill is not amended, we the homeowners will not support it.

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“We will continue our campaign and protests until it is amended, until it is fit for purpose. Fit for the citizens of this country who need to avail of it to fix their homes.

“It is not just our houses that this is destroying, but our daily lives, our working lives, our family lives, our physical and mental wellbeing, the very fabric of our communities.

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“ Minister we will not give up. The time for engagement is over.”