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Mica redress: Tánaiste says 'it's not the government's money' so 'we must have cost control'

Affected homeowners are seeking 100% of the costs associated with fixing their homes.

A mica protest in June.
A mica protest in June.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said there must be “some sort of cost control” for taxpayers on any mica redress scheme, adding that “it’s not the government’s money”. 

Affected homeowners have demanded that a government scheme, which was launched just last year after years of campaigning, particularly by communities in Donegal, be changed to cover 100% of the costs associated with fixing their homes.

Their houses were built with defective building blocks containing muscovite mica, a mineral that absorbs moisture, reducing the strength of the foundations their homes stand on and the walls holding up their roofs.

The worst-hit counties are Donegal and Mayo but Varadkar said last week that the Department of Housing has also received requests from local authorities in Sligo, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary to engage in the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme.

The cost of the redress scheme has previously been estimated at €1.5 billion but Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has said that the final bill could be significantly higher

Speaking today, the Tánaiste acknowledged that the previously announced scheme “isn’t adequate” and needs to be “enhanced” but that government must “try to control the total costs”.

Varadkar said he has visited mica-affected homes and has spoken to families involved but that the government must consider all taxpayers as well as other people who have bought defective homes.

“We do have to bear in mind the impact on the general taxpayer as well. Behind this issue there’s also an issue of defective apartments, many of them in my constituency and ultimately it’s not the government that pays for this, it’s the taxpayer,” he said.

The average working person pays for this even though they weren’t responsible in any way for the problems that happened with pyrite or mica or defective apartments. So we always have to bear that in mind. It’s not the government’s money, we don’t have any money, the only money we have is the tax we take from you, so that’s why we have to try to make sure that we have some sort of cost control. I think people, fair minded people, understand why we have to try to control the total costs.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said that his department was working “in good faith” to find a resolution and that he expects proposals on a new scheme to be published “in the next month”. 

“There is a working group that is now in the final stages of preparing a proposal and those impacted by mica are represented on that, along with course government officials, and the representatives of the relevant local authorities. So they will furnish a report with a recommendation I expect in the next two weeks,” he said.

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“Minister O’Brien (Housing) has said on the record that he wants to have a proposal by the end of the month and my officials and myself stand ready to examine that, to provide our assessment, and to provide our support to the scheme that ultimately puts us on a path to resolving this issue because we do want to see it resolved.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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