Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Pyrite Remediation Programme Implementation
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, to the House. I have had a great deal of correspondence from citizens throughout the eastern region regarding the pyrite remediation scheme that was announced earlier this year. Like everybody, I welcomed that undertaking by the Government to take action to address this issue. However, I was somewhat surprised during the summer when I discovered that legislation was required to implement the pyrite levy and the remediation works for home owners. I am concerned that this legislation has not yet been published.
There were mixed messages from Government yesterday. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, announced that the legislation would be published next week. However, the Taoiseach, in reply to my party leader in the Dáil, did not give the same commitment and offered little comfort to the many home owners concerned about the issue. People whose houses are affected by pyrite are at their wits' end and the problem is getting worse on a daily basis. There is an obligation on the Government to act with urgency. I acknowledge the progress that has been done to date, including by our late colleague, Shane McEntee, who, as Minister of State, did great work. However, I am very concerned by the prospect of further delays.
Several housing estates affected by pyrite have been fixed in the recent past, as has been well documented in the media. That effort has created considerable expertise in this area; we have people in this country who know how to do these jobs very quickly. I urge the Government to avail of that expertise to ensure the work is completed as speedily as possible. At the same time, I urge people whose homes are affected by pyrite to contact their local representatives or the Pyrite Resolution Board. There is an element of heads being buried in the sand, which is understandable. People are worried sick if there is any hint of pyrite in their home, but they must be encouraged to register with the Pyrite Resolution Board so that the problem can be addressed. I hope the Minister of State will have some positive developments to report on this issue.
I thank the Senator for raising this issue, which I am taking on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Phil Hogan. Following Government decisions of 18 December 2012 and 30 April 2013, work commenced in my Department on developing the legislation required to provide for the funding of a pyrite remediation scheme and the necessary structures to deliver an effective and efficient remediation process.
Developing the structures necessary to deliver a remediation scheme has proved challenging, and several legal difficulties arose over the summer months which required detailed and thorough consideration. Inevitably, these difficulties have led to a delay in the drafting of the legislation, with a consequent delay in the Pyrite Resolution Board accepting applications from eligible home owners. While it was the Minister's intention to have the legislation published and enacted by now, this has not been possible. We are committed to ensuring these issues are resolved as a matter of urgency and, in that context, he will be bringing proposals to Government shortly.
In the meantime, the Pyrite Resolution Board has been getting on with its work, including developing an online application and processing system. While there has been some slippage in the timeline as originally envisaged, the board is committed to having the system operable as quickly as possible. However, it would not be appropriate for the board to accept applications in advance of the necessary structures and legislation being in place.
In addition to the work being undertaken on the online application system, the board is also working on developing appropriate structures and systems for the delivery of remediation programmes.
It is highly important that proper systems, with appropriate checks and balances, are developed and put in place to ensure that effective and efficient programmes of remediation are delivered to affected homeowners. Cognisant of the need to give affected homeowners as much detail and guidance as possible on the proposed pyrite remediation scheme, the pyrite resolution board, shortly after its establishment, established a website, www.pyriteboard.ie, to which Senator Byrne referred. The website provides valuable information for affected homeowners, setting out a summary of the proposed scheme, the qualification criteria and the various steps that will be involved in the remediation process.
The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan, is acutely aware of the long wait that many affected homeowners have had to endure in waiting for solutions to the pyrite problems in their homes. The time since the pyrite problem first arose has not been easy for affected homeowners and the Minister understands how stressful such situations can be. Against this background, the Minister is determined to provide workable solutions and wishes to assure those homeowners that he will continue to attach the utmost priority to providing the structures necessary to deliver a practical resolution to the pyrite problem as early as possible. It is the very least these homeowners deserve.
I am disappointed by the reply. It would be helpful if the Department and the pyrite board gave this information to homeowners on an ongoing basis. The feeling on the ground is that people do not know what is going on. It is helpful to know what is going on, as outlined by the Minister of State. Inevitably, there will be concern about the delay. Members of the Opposition will give whatever help we can but it is our duty to keep the pressure on to ensure this is delivered. It is almost one year since the original Government decision and we are well past the anniversary of the publication of the report. I encourage the Government to put as much information as possible on the pyrite board's website. People are reading things online every day and this is part of the modern worrying process. Is there some reassurance the Minister of State can give? It must happen quickly because pyrite damage is progressive, and these homes are getting worse. We look forward to a resolution.