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FACTCHECK

Debunked: Government has not forbidden business grants and modular homes for Irish people

A video viewed more than 47,000 times claimed modular homes don’t pass safety regulations for Irish people.

CLAIMS THAT THERE are special business grants that only non-Irish people can avail of have no basis.

The claims were made in a video, without evidence, alongside allegations that the Irish government had said that modular homes were “unfit” for Irish people to live in.

Government departments have denied this, and said that their current policies include building modular homes for the general population.

The clip was first posted on TikTok before being shared on Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 47,000 times with the description “Halal shops are replacing Irish butchers rapidly.”

The TikTok account appears to have since been taken down.

The video features a woman speaking to camera, complaining about how there used to be four butchers in her town, but now, she says, there’s only one.

(It is unclear what town she is in, and how many butchers and halal shops, if any, are open there). 

“When you look around, any businesses [sic] that is opening, it’s not Irish. It’s non-Irish that’s opening up these businesses,” the woman complains.

“And that’s because of the grants that the government – the unelected, treacherous, little rats that we call government – are giving them grants to open up these businesses.

“Now folks, I’m sick of being called a racist for speaking the truth. And that’s what it is: the truth!

“Our government are giving these people grants, but the Irish can’t avail of these grants. The same way as how the Irish can’t avail of the modular homes.

“But yet, when we ask the government, why can’t the Irish avail of the modular homes, What are we told? ‘I’m sorry, the safety and regulation procedures wouldn’t pass for the Irish.’

“And yet we’re racist, because we want our people looked after, in our own country?”

No further details or evidence are provided for the claims that Irish people cannot avail of grants or modular homes.

Business grants

The Journal was unable to find any business grants offered by the government that were only available to non-Irish people. As the person who originally posted the video is no longer on TikTok under the same username, it is unclear what she might have been referring to.

As there are quite a few business grants available, all with their own criteria, The Journal reached out to the Department of Enterprise, which is responsible for business grants; the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, which runs schemes for refugees and asylum seekers; and the Department of Social Protection, which runs schemes to help unemployed people become self-employed.

All three departments responded to say they did not provide business grants for non-Irish people or that Irish people were ineligible for.

“The grants and supports within the remit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment are open to all applicants on the condition that they are established, registered, and operating in Ireland and meet all relevant eligibility criteria,” a spokesperson for the department told The Journal.

The Department of Social Protection also said their schemes were open to Irish people.

“The Department of Social Protection provides support to people under the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme,” a response from the Department’s press office read.

“This scheme is available to all eligible applicants on the same conditions and terms. There are no special arrangements for non-Irish people.

“The scheme supports people getting certain social welfare payments to become self-employed. If you take part in the Back to Work Enterprise Allowance scheme you can keep a percentage of your social welfare payment for up to 2 years.”

Modular homes

Modular houses are units assembled off-site in a factory using the same standards and regulations as traditional homes. They are built in “modules”, which are then assembled and installed on the final site.

A major benefit of modular housing is speed, with the ability to assemble the homes on site in as little as four hours. They range from adapted pre-fab units to regular-looking bungalows.

Modular homes have been suggested as a way to tackle Irish homelessness for years; in 2015, Dublin local authorities held a showcase demonstrating six models of modular homes that they said could house homeless people or even students. 

A number of developments using modular builds to house Ukrainian refugees have been planned by the government, though many of these have been held back by delays.

Similar to the claim about grants, The Journal was unable to find any statements by the government that modular homes would not pass “safety and regulation procedures” for Irish people, and it is unclear what the person in the video was referring to.

“No such statement was made by this Department,” the press office of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, which helps lead the effort to house Ukranians fleeing the Russian invasion, told The Journal.

“The modular homes being rolled out by the OPW [Office of Public Works], in conjunction with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, on State-owned sites around the country are to provide accommodation to those fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“The programme has certain planning exemptions under the European-wide regulations that were put in place and signed into law in Ireland,” the department said, referring to a statutory instrument enacted by Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for Housing, which made developments “providing temporary protection to displaced persons” exempt from most planning regulations.

“Therefore, the modular housing developments were specifically approved as part of a range of emergency accommodation options that had to be put in place for those fleeing the war,” the Department of Integration said. 

“In terms of standards of such homes, the OPW in conjunction with the Construction Industry Federation, developed an exemplar design and specification for these housing units to ensure Building Regulation compliance.

“The modular prototype that was designed is a highly energy-efficient durable single storey unit (with a useful lifespan of 60 years).”

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage also told The Journal that the same safety standards applied for modular homes for Ukrainians as they did for houses for Irish people, and did not know of any government statements to the contrary such, had been claimed in the video.

“The department is not aware of any such statement”, the department said in response to The Journal’s queries.

“It should be noted that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is already working closely with all local authorities to increase and accelerate the delivery of social housing, including through the use of design-build Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) – which includes prefabricated and modular build units.

“Local authorities have been advised that design-build MMC approaches should be adopted where appropriate to deliver social housing projects on local authority-owned land.

“To date approximately 925 social homes have been delivered by Local Authorities to the end of 2022 using the design-build MMC with over 3,000 units in the pipeline for design-build MMC delivery,” the department said. 

“The Building Regulations 1997-2021 set out the legal requirements for the construction of new buildings (including houses), extensions to existing buildings as well as for material alterations and certain material changes of use to existing buildings. Their aim is to provide for the safety and welfare of people in and about buildings.”

The department said that it releases “Technical Guidance Documents” to advise people on building homes and “where works are carried out in accordance with the relevant technical guidance, such works are considered to be, prima facie, in compliance with the relevant regulations”.

However, they stressed that developments carried out in other ways could still adhere to the regulations.

“The adoption of an approach other than that outlined in the guidance is not precluded provided that the relevant requirements of the Regulations are complied with,” the department said.

“The Building Regulations are set out in functional terms. They are performance based and technology/material neutral. Primary responsibility for compliance with the Building Regulations rests with the designers, builders and owners of buildings.

Verdict

False. The government does not offer business grants that are not available to Irish people. While homes built to house Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have less planning regulations applied to them, the same safety regulations apply for them as for other homes.

The department of housing is encouraging the use of modular building for homes for the general population.

With reporting by Eoghan Dalton.

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