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Former Fine Gael minister Joe McHugh resigns party whip over unhappiness at mica redress scheme

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Joe McHugh said he ‘could not in good conscience’ vote for the Government’s mica redress bill. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Joe McHugh said he ‘could not in good conscience’ vote for the Government’s mica redress bill. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Mica affected homeowners from around Ireland are seeking 100pc redress for the faulty concrete blocks in their homes. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

Mica affected homeowners from around Ireland are seeking 100pc redress for the faulty concrete blocks in their homes. Photo: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

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Joe McHugh said he ‘could not in good conscience’ vote for the Government’s mica redress bill. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Former Fine Gael minister Joe McHugh has not decided whether he will support the Government in future Dáil votes after resigning the party whip.

The Donegal TD went against his Coalition colleagues last night as they sought to progress legislation that will underpin a €2.7bn redress scheme for homeowners affected by the mica scandal.

His decision means the number of Government TDs has dropped to 79, leaving them shy of a guaranteed majority ahead of September’s Budget.

Mr McHugh told the Irish Independent that people in his constituency were not satisfied with the scheme and he could not stand over it.

While he thanked Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien for trying to devise a workable scheme, he said a decision to limit Dáil debate last night to just two hours was the final straw for him.

“I am making this decision with a clear head,” he said, adding that he “couldn’t in good conscience” vote for the bill. Afterwards he resigned the Fine Gael party whip.

Asked whether he will support Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe’s Budget in September, the former education minister replied: “I haven’t thought it that far through.”

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar last night told TDs and senators he expects the Government will be able to rely on Mr McHugh’s vote on issues outside of the mica redress scheme.

Two Green Party TDs are suspended from the government benches until November, meaning the Government could be at the mercy of some Independent TDs for the Budget.

Parts of Mr McHugh’s constituency have been blighted by the presence of mica in concrete blocks used in the construction of homes. Many families have seen walls in their properties literally crumble as a result.

There were rowdy scenes in the Dáil last night as some campaigners sought to voice their unhappiness with the scheme from the public gallery.

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Explaining his vote, Mr McHugh said: “I’m talking in particular about people who are my generation and a bit older. People who are going to find it hard to get a €30,000-€40,000 loan upfront [to finish a rebuild project].”

He acknowledged Mr O’Brien was rushing the legislation in an attempt to have it passed before the Dáil goes into summer recess later this month – but said there need to be changes. “The downsizing was a big issue for me, and I still think it’s unfair for somebody who wishes to downsize, that unfairness in being penalised... I felt very strongly on that point, and I’ll continue to raise that point.”


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