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Leo Varadkar's government has suffered its first Dáil defeat - on new building standards

It’s not the first time the government has lost a vote, but it is the first since Varadkar became Taoiseach.

Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT HAS lost its first Dáil vote since Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach, when a Green Party motion on building standards passed through the house today.

Since the minority Fine Gael government was formed, several votes have been lost but this is the first for the new Taoiseach, just over a week since he took office.

An amendment by Minister Eoghan Murphy was defeated by 84 votes to 46, while a Fianna Fáil amendment lost by a similar margin.

Speaking after the vote, Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin said that “the message from the Dáil is clear” for the government to “end their hands-off approach to building regulation”.

Grenfell Tower blaze

The Green Party’s motion on building standards, regulation and homeowner protection aims to create an Irish Building Authority that would administer building control on a nationwide basis and provide a supervisory regulatory function in the sector.

In the motion, it notes that since the building boom over the past 20 years, past governments have failed to properly regulate the industry.

“There have been no law reform that addresses the lack of remedies available to homeowners affected by pyrite, building regulation breaches and other housing failures,” the motion says.

It also calls for speedier methods to solve disputes, and offer greater protection to homeowners in the event of negligence in the building process. Furthermore, it includes proposals to provide financing for remedial works to “defective housing units, that will form the basis for a nationwide scheme”.

Martin said it was time the government abandoned plans “to allow the construction sector to continue regulating themselves.”.

She said: “They must develop remediation mechanisms for homeowners who have been left to pick up the pieces of substandard building practices, while cowboy developers get off scot-free.”

The Dublin Rathdown TD said that the “overriding priority” in all construction should be the safety of residents.

She said that, under current rules, a blaze similar to that of London’s Grenfell Tower could occur here.

Lost vote

This is by no means the first vote that the government has lost a vote during this Dáil term.

With Fianna Fáil abstaining on many occasions, the government’s main votes usually pass but there have been occasions where they’ve failed to block opposition motions.

Last June, the government suffered its first defeat when it put forward a counter-motion to a Labour proposal on worker’s rights that was turned down.

It has also been very close on several occasions. In January, the votes were tied at 51 each – with FF abstaining – on an Anti-Evictions Bill proposed by Solidarity-PBP.

As it came to a tie, Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl had the deciding vote, and went with the government.

Last month, the government came up red-faced after its TDs forgot to vote against postponing the sale of AIB.

Read: Donald Tusk welcomes Ireland’s ‘young, energetic’ new Taoiseach to Brussels

Read: How did the appointment of a judge threaten to bring the government down?

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Sean Murray

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