TAOISEACH Micheál Martin admitted that the €2.7bn-plus mica redress scheme poses “an enormous cost” for the State but insisted it was critical to allow thousands of families to remain in their homes.
r Martin – speaking in Cork – also insisted that only a minority of the homes involved in the scheme are relatively large with the majority of impacted homes being standard family properties.
His comments came amid concern the scheme could significantly exceed the current €2.7bn estimate, potentially rising well above €3.5bn.
The Government initiative aims to help families whose homes were built with blocks contaminated with the mineral mica which, when it absorbs water, causes concrete blocks to slowly crack and crumble.
More than 7,000 properties are impacted by mica block contamination, the bulk in the north west.
Some homes have suffered severe structural damage as a result of mica-related cracking.
Other homes around Ireland have been hit by a similar problem involving pyrite, the majority of those properties being in the mid west.
Mr Martin insisted the Government had to act despite the enormous costs involved and insisted it represented necessary and justified State intervention.
“It is State expenditure but it’s necessary expenditure – the Government has decided to do it in addition to a whole range of other expenditures which we obviously have to consider – housing, social protection, education, health, child care and all of those issues we will be dealing with in the forthcoming budget.”
“People are in very difficult situations as a result of the mica scandal and the Government believes the fundamental objective is to enable people to have their homes and live in their homes,” he said.
“From a humane perspective, I think it is important to intervene and to provide people with basic shelter in terms of the restoration and rebuilding of their homes.”
“It does come with an enormous cost – we don’t have a definitive estimate in terms of the timeline around this…because some of it depends (on) the degree to which some houses deteriorate.”
The current scheme involves a Government funding commitment of €2.7bn, €500m more than the previous maximum estimate.
Some critics have claimed the final cost of the mica-pyrite remediation schemes could reach almost €4bn.
“What I think is important is (that) the broad outline of the scheme has been published,” Mr Martin said.
“What really is important now is that we would get going and particularly (target) the houses that are most damaged.”
“I’ve met some people whose houses are significantly damaged – we know there are about 300 houses that have already been identified for demolition and reconstruction so I think we should move ahead now with the National Housing Agency and the local authorities and get the worst houses reconstructed and developed.”
“Step by step, we will gradually understand more about the full scale of this – some of the estimates about how many houses are involved are loose enough estimates it seems to me in terms of how that has been calculated.”
“So I think the focus should be on those most affected right now, let’s get on with it right now – the money has been provided and additional capacity has been provided, a methodology has been put in place in terms of the SEAI in terms of costs and so forth.”
“So what is urgently required now in my view is to bring capacity to the delivery of either the reconstruction of those houses that need to be rebuilt or remedial works that need them.”
The Taoiseach insisted that there is only a minority of properties involved which are large-scale, expensive homes.
“Those types of houses are in the minority in terms of the type of houses involved there so the principle applies.”
“At the end of the day, people will go on a list in terms of social housing, I think the logical thing is to rebuild the houses where they are located – that’s the logical approach really to take here.”
“Some of them are quite large but to be fair, they are in the minority and I think we have to look at this in the round.”
“What’s important here is that a lot of trauma and insecurity has developed in families who are living in houses that are no longer, in some cases, fit for purpose.”
“I think if people are confident that this is for real and these Government decisions mean the release of resources to allow the reconstruction of houses.”
“If it just needs remedial work, if anything happens in ten or 15 or 20 years, the State will intervene again and that guarantee has been given and rents supports have been provided in the new scheme – up-front engineering costs have been provided so really the wherewithal is there for us collectively to move on and get work started.”