Tuesday, 4 October 2022
Defective Concrete Products Levy: Motion [Private Members]
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn (Donegal, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source
On numerous occasions, I have engaged with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the role of the banks in contributing towards redress for the affected families in this scandal. I recall one exchange with the Minister for Finance when the Dáil was sitting in the Convention Centre Dublin when he looked puzzled that banks, the mortgage lenders whose assets would be reduced to zero with houses impacted by defective blocks, would have their assets restored to full market value with the help of the State and that the banks were not being asked to play any role in any of it. Worse than that, they were not making a financial contribution. They have not assisted families with restructuring their loans or even writing down debt. I can speak with authority only about my own county, Donegal. The role of the banks there has been absolutely shameful. Right up to this moment, families who have needed help from their banks to navigate this crisis to rebuild their lives have not been helped, yet the Government is not proposing a levy on the banking sector to assist in this crisis. He is not even asking the banks to help the families affected, based on a recent response I got from the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage. That is just shocking.
Consider the pyrite scandals that have affected families in north Leinster and Dublin, and also the defective block crisis, which concerns pyrrhotite, mica and pyrite in counties in the west and a growing number of other counties. It is estimated that 13 or 14 counties are now affected. We must also consider the tens of thousands of people in houses, apartments and duplexes who were failed by the Celtic tiger owing to greed, recklessness and the consequent defects. Not one person has been brought to account, and not one cent has been taken from the people who delivered the misery all across the country. Nobody has been brought to book. The Minister said last October that he would appoint a senior counsel to look at a public inquiry to learn the lessons from these scandals. A recent response I got to a parliamentary question states the Minister has not only not appointed a senior counsel but that he has not even provided the terms of reference. I talked to campaigners in Donegal in recent days and noted they had not been consulted on terms of reference. Can Members imagine any other country tolerating such a devastating impact on so many families, costing the taxpayer billions of euro and with nobody brought to book or held to account? Not even a senior counsel has been appointed and no terms of reference have been provided. For God's sake, does the Government not understand the hurt and devastation that people have gone through all across this country, in almost every county, because of the greed and recklessness and the relationship between builders, manufacturers and those who were in government throughout all the years in question?
It gets even worse. At a meeting of the housing committee in July, we listened to evidence from the experts on the legislation the Government was introducing. We learned from them that, right now, there are quarries that are continuing to manufacture defective concrete blocks. For Christ's sake, it is happening even as we speak. The Minister talks about the billions that remediation would cost the taxpayer and everything that has to be done but he is still allowing quarries to manufacture defective concrete blocks. There is no accountability or contribution, and this still goes on today.
In this debate and in response to the bad decision the Government has made on the concrete levy, I have been asked to plead with the Government to demonstrate by its actions that it will have zero tolerance for the recklessness in question, which has destroyed people's lives, will hold those responsible to account, end the misery delivered to people and afford to the latter 100% redress no matter where they live in this State. This is the opportunity tonight. It is not just about this foolish concrete levy; it is also about showing people that what happened will never happen again and that the taxpayer will not be exposed. Moreover, it is about showing that families will not have their lives destroyed. That is my plea tonight. The Minister should finally deal with the banks.