Sunday 23 October 2016

Coalition can't ignore firetrap homes scandal

Published 01/10/2015 | 02:30

The residents of Longboat Quay have been told they need to raise €4m to fund repairs of the building or face being evacuated from their homes
The residents of Longboat Quay have been told they need to raise €4m to fund repairs of the building or face being evacuated from their homes

As the Government basks in the glow of the sale by Nama of 'Project Jewel' - the bad bank's biggest sale to date - residents in yet another apartment block are contemplating the threat of evacuation from their dream homes that have turned into dangerous firetraps.

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Unless they come up with €4m to fund repairs, the residents of Longboat Quay in Dublin face evacuation and an uncertain future, such as that endured previously by the residents of Priory Hall.

The homeowners and residents whose homes have been condemned by shoddy building and risks including fire safety, pyrite and homes built on flood plains, bear no responsibility for the trauma they are facing.

And in almost all cases, the private companies that built their homes have been placed in liquidation, with many of the developers who led the construction boom now back in business.

It must be particularly galling for the residents of Longboat Quay that Bernard McNamara, whose slogan "Better Built by McNamara" was ubiquitous during the boom, is now working on construction projects in Dublin. Mr McNamara went bankrupt with debts of €2bn, but is not obliged to compensate Longboat Quay residents, as it was his company - placed into receivership and which cannot fund vital repairs - which built their homes. These residents are victims of one of the many ghosts of the Celtic Tiger years, namely the failure by the State to regulate and supervise the construction and banking sectors.

Prudence and basic safety standards were sacrificed in both domains at the altar of a runaway housing boom.

The Government, which is contemplating new measures that would facilitate the reflating of many construction magnates, has sought to wring its hands and decry the latest housing crisis as a legacy issue. It should not be allowed to do so.

Nor should Environment Minister Alan Kelly be allowed to kick to touch a review of homes where concerns have been raised about fire safety until next year, when the General Election is concluded or under way.

Lives and livelihoods cannot be put on hold. And, as usual, it is the taxpayer who will pay for this crisis.

Health service needs funds, not posturing

Each year there is something of a phoney war concerning Health and the Budget.

This one is no different, judging by the exchanges between Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and Health Minister Leo Varadkar.

Things must have come to quite a pass for Mr Varadkar to suggest that cuts would cause a "serious downgrading" in services. Key government commitments on mental health and disability "would have to be abandoned" if the planned reductions were enforced, he claimed.

Of course the deliverance of the necessary €600m to meet the deficit came through. The Government cannot walk away from the ill.

But it is difficult to understand why such brinkmanship and theatrics are necessary when we already know that certain needs must be met.

It is fine for a Government to claim to care, but in politics priorities are best reflected in budgets.

And by such a cold metric, we don't seem to value the elderly and the sick quite as much as we like to claim.

Our health service has been underfunded for decades. It is falling far behind what is required to meet the needs of a rapidly changing society. Alas, instead of meaningful change, we seem condemned to perpetual phoney wars.

Irish Independent

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