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‘Problematic quarries’ still producing defective blocks despite €2.7bn mica scandal, TDs warned


A mica damaged home

A mica damaged home

A mica damaged home

There are “problematic quarries” which are still producing defective building blocks that contain mica, TDs and senators have been told.

The Oireachtas housing committee is today holding a marathon six-hour session to scrutinise the Government’s proposed mica redress scheme.

Thousands of homes across the country are crumbling due to mica, a mineral which turns concrete blocks sponge-like, and the Government recently signed off on a €2.7bn repair scheme with a cap of €420,000 per home.

Aidan O’Connell from Engineers Ireland told politicians that there are “bad apples” in quarries and he has been contacted by TDs who have raised concerns about “wholly unsatisfactory” blocks still being produced.

“I do know certain quarries that are still producing concrete blocks and still producing material and that it is wholly unsatisfactory and they continue to do it knowing that material is wholly unsatisfactory,” he said.

“I believe that some TDs and other public personnel do know that themselves and I would encourage them to use their public authority to get that stopped

“But there are only a few bad apples that are still out there, generally I would say the industry has improved.”

Fine Gael senator John Cummins then asked if there is evidence of these bad apples are “still continuing to this day”.

Mr Connell said he is aware of cases where homes have been built recently and cracks have appeared.

“I can also say that I have other cases where those houses have been built in recent years and they are demonstrating damage and the same material is present in both those properties,” he said.

“I have had phone calls from one or two Deputies, saying, ‘Do you know of problematic quarries in these areas because we are seeing properties with cracking, etc, and do you know if these particular quarries are supplying materials?’” he told the committee.

Mr O’Connell said those quarries are also associated with other incidents, such as homeowners being asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

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Mr O’Connell said some quarries are carrying out “side deals” with homeowners as they “recognise they have a problem”.

“They are suppressing the information and some of the damage and doing some side deals with home owners,” he said.

Department of housing officials told the committee that 150 quarries last year were inspected.

They said people aware of “defective materials on the marketplace” should report them.

John Wickham from the Department of Housing said the supply chain has a responsibility to make sure products are “fit for purpose”.

“There are standards in place, they need to be adhered to,” he said.

“Housing for All commits to the establishment of an independent building standards regulator and that piece of work is ongoing at the moment,” said Caroline Timmons, assistant secretary at the department of housing.

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin said if anybody suspects there are breaches of building control rules, they should contact the National Building Control Office or their local council.

He said he has reported quarries to this office.

“There have been no reforms of any aspect of the regulation regime ensuring adequate compliance with the standards for the manufacturing of building products since this issue first arose,” he said.

“There is nothing stopping either rogue apples or systemic problems in our system.”

Earlier, mica homeowners appealed to the Government to allow them to downsize their homes without having their grants cut.

The new scheme was called “inflexible, cynical, illogical and blinkered” by Michael Doherty, who represents the Mica Action Group.

The redress scheme states that if homeowners receive funding for demolishing the home and they end up building a smaller home, their grants will be cut.

Homeowner Martina Hegarty said she would have to use €50,000 of her own money to rebuild her home due to the caps in place.

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