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26/10/2021

Working Group Draft Report 'really disturbing' - chartered engineer

'Flaws in IS 465 will not be addressed and the required research will not be done'

Working Group Draft Report 'really disturbing' - chartered engineer

Working Group Draft Report 'really disturbing' - chartered engineer

A chartered engineer with 50 Donegal clients at various stages of the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme has described the draft report from the working group on the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme as “really disturbing”.

Speaking to Donegal Live, Dr Ambrose McCloskey said he thought the affected homeowners of Donegal had been sold short in the latest Government paper.

“In general the document is extremely poor and lacking in any clarity, but what it does confirm as agreed, in my opinion, is that the homeowners now have an even worse scheme than they did before,” he said.

“All of the concerns of the engineers, which were genuine concerns about the [Defective Concrete Blocks Grant] Scheme have just been circumvented by taking it out of their hands and going straight to the Housing Agency.

“The fixes now in there will just be the very minimum, take it or leave it and that's it. They will not care about the longevity of what they propose as they have no professional indemnity worries. The flaws in IS 465 will not be addressed and the required research will not be done.

“It is clear to me, the Government has no interest in doing what is right for the people. Imagine being so unsure of what you are doing, you are prepared to spend up to €200,000 on an Option 2 fix and then having to give the homeowner a piece of paper saying that we will monitor it and if the problem is still there afterwards you can go again, surely this is ludicrous.”

Dr McCloskey said homeowners would be stuck with a blighted house, worth site value only, that is likely to be showing further damage in five or ten years time.

“Because the working group negotiated this, there will be no recourse. The homeowners will have to live with dwellings that cannot be mortgaged, insured, sold or used to raise finance on as well as the thought of going through the same testing and remedial process again.

“There are psychological issues for homeowners as regards this remediation approach. The family home is most often the single largest asset/financial outlay that the majority of people make. Can a family really be expected to continue to pay for, live in, and upkeep, a home that they know is built from largely deleterious blocks and may or may not begin to show physical signs of degradation at any time. Who is going to do the required monitoring? Who is going to pay for it?

“Micheál Martin put in writing that this scheme would see the people back to where they were had they not built houses with defective blocks and it will most definitely not. It is not even close.

“They are campaigning for 100% redress. They have been promised 100% already for all bar Option 1 (demolition). In reality, there will be very few demolitions recommended, so it will not matter. The working group documents published to date are so poor and so lacking in detail that it is now not clear to me what exactly they are looking for from the Dublin protest. The level of communication and detail in this multi-billion euro issue is truly shocking. A fix is being negotiated on behalf of potentially 6,000 to 7,000 homeowners and there is no clear communication of what exactly is being asked or offered. We were told there would be a clear spreadsheet of asks and answers as to whether they were agreed or not. I have not seen this.”

Dr McCloskey said he believed the working group had a “predetermined outcome”.

“It was used by the Government to placate the people. I do not doubt the working group homeowner representative’s commitment or effort, but I do not believe they were never going to get what is required. I won't have any further issues because I now won’t be doing any work on the scheme, but I feel for all those people that are campaigning for 100% redress as all they are going to get is an outer leaf fix and hope for the best. I fear they are going to be living with this problem for the rest of their days in houses they can't sell. It is not a fix.

“I have been trying to do the right thing by the affected people to get what they need and deserve from early this year. It is extremely frustrating that they have now got a worse scheme than they originally had. Our voice has been totally ignored by all to date and now we have been taken fully out of it.

“Look at the latest Government response. Second homes and rental properties did not even get a mention. What about commercial properties? What about not leaving anyone behind? I sincerely hope it is too far down the road to make radical changes at this point. It would be interesting to look into the legalities of this entire working group process, should it not be more democratic given that so many people’s lives are affected in such a major way? Can agreements of this magnitude really be made in this way on behalf of homeowners?

“The litany of failures by the Government to date in this scandal has been compounded by their handling of these talks. The people must remember that they are in this position as a direct result of Government failures and not through any fault of their own. These people will work most of their lives to pay a mortgage on a significantly blighted property as a direct result of the government failing to regulate a product. They should not accept anything other than a fix that ensures the reinstatement of the value of their property,” said Dr McCloskey.

He said the Government would now proceed to put a positive spin on it that the €3.2 billion potential cost has been kept down to €1.5billion and it is a great success story.

“There will be a different Government in power by the time the reality hits home in five to ten years, so they don’t care. Taken over the long term, this will end up actually costing the Government / taxpayer much more.”

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