|The "enhanced" defective building blocks scheme is yet another example of betrayal by government|
They had successfully put in place a cheap grant scheme which would offer ineffective building remediation of affected homes depending on the amount of Mica only found in your house blocks and all based on I.S.465.
No mention was made in the Govt designed IS 465 of the much more dangerous Sulphide Minerals and other Deleterious Materials which they also knew were contained in the defective blocks.
No mention either of testing foundations and what they might also contain.
But when the test results from the block core samples started coming in from Petrolab in Cornwall a very concerning picture began to emerge which was explained in stark detail by Dr Ambrose Mc Closkey.
He identified the fact that the Govt IS 465 (which the 90/10 scheme was based on) did not include any mention of the dangerous reactive Sulphide Minerals found in the tested blocks and the absolute lunacy of not testing the foundations.
It became clear from Dr Mc Closkey's comments that it made no engineering sense to replace the outer leaf only (or part of ) once your core test results showed high levels of Mica and the additional presence of Iron Sulphides above the maximum allowed of 0.1%.
The only acceptable engineering option should be complete demolition.
He notified both the Donegal Co Cl and the Chairman of the Cl Mica Action Committee of his concerns and unbelievably was ignored by both.
If the crumbling blocks contained reactive Iron Sulphides and other Deleterious Materials then it was logical to assume the foundations were also infected considering that both the blocks and foundations were made from the same aggregate and came from the same manufacturer.
He actually stated that IS 465, as it stood, was unethical and not fit for purpose.
This Standard (IS 465) required independent engineers to sign off on ineffective engineering solutions making it completely unethical and leaving them open to possible future litigation by the homeowners in the event of additional building degradation.
IS 465 engineers soon recognised the dangers of signing off on such reports which could have future legal ramifications for them personally if outer leaf replacements were seen not to solve the problem.
To counteract this danger the engineers began signing off for demolition only.
The Officials got scared
Because of this decision by the engineers, Donegal Co Cl now found hundreds of homeowners’ applications on their desk containing engineers reports insisting that 'Demolition' as the only proper engineering option they were prepared to sign off on, based on the Petrolab test results and the Co Cl now stopped processing all applications.
They contacted central Govt., highlighted the problem and waited for direction.
This new demolition-only decision by the engineers turned into a potentially massive financial problem for the Government which needed to be solved urgently.
They decided it was not financially sustainable to accept mass demolition and yet the engineers had the legal and ethical right to give the affected homeowners the correct engineering solution and sign off as they saw fit.
This scheme had now turned into a nightmare for the Govt who immediately recognised that this new course of action by the engineers, although correct technically and the proper engineering solution to the crumbling homes could not be allowed to continue because of the financial ramifications for the exchequer.
The fact that the engineers were acting correctly and ethically according to their profession, providing the proper engineering solution seemed to cut little ice with the Govt because of the perceived huge amount of money it would cost the State.
In short, for the Govt it became all about the money.
To counteract this new situation the Govt decided the 90/10 would have to be replaced in order to make sure the independent engineers would no longer have any say into the future in deciding which Option affected homeowners were given for remediation and thus protecting the Govt exchequer from thousands of expensive demolitions and rebuilds which the Govt knew were coming down the tracks.
Also, the existing demolition decisions in hundreds of applications with Donegal Co Cl would need to be dealt with and somehow made null and void.
The Cl stopped processing all applications until the new legislation was passed.
The engineers were signing off on a proper engineering solution (demolition) according to the laboratory results . . . the Govt wanted a solution (outer leaf block replacement) which was inexpensive but not correct from the engineers point of view based on the Petrolab results of the block cores.
So, at this point, in the Spring of 2021, we can say the Govt has two major problems with the 90/10 that needed urgent attention . . .
- The homeowners' engineers' decision to insist on demolition as the only option they were prepared to sign off on which, if not stopped and changed, would cost the Govt an unsustainable amount of money, as they saw it regardless if it was the just and right solution for the innocent home owners. They would also be aware of the number of buildings already identified and the thousands more coming down the tracks.
- The hundreds of home owner remediation applications that are already sitting on the Donegal County Cl table containing engineers reports stating demolition as the engineering solution which will be hugely expensive i and would set a precedent.
A drastic need for change
These two 90/10 problems are massive and need serious and urgent attention by the Govt.
The following details explains how the Govt. manoeuvred its way out of their nightmare at the homeowners expense.
The first indication that the Govt had finalised a plan to do away with the 90/10 and solve the financial nightmare facing them came by way of their invitation to MAG and 100% Redress to take part in a Govt sponsored Working Group which they announced on the day of the Dublin march 15th June 2021.
The decision to announce the invitation on this particular day was crucial to their plan and not simply a chance date.
The day was highly charged with substantial numbers of protestors and they wanted a result.
The impression the Govt wanted to create was that because of the protest in Dublin they had been forced to reconsider the content of the 90/10 which had fallen short of the affected homeowners expectations and because of this they were now agreeable to finally ' do the right thing ' and put an 'enhanced' scheme in its place.
It was a complete Hoodwink and worked to perfection.
It was announced on RTE news during the Dublin protest, immediately agreed to by all and hailed as a great victory for the campaign.
The Govt anticipated that MAG and the 100% Redress group would see this as a great victory and would not question it and that they would ' go for it ' immediately - which they did.
The start of the Govt betrayal of the affected homeowners had now been launched publicly and few saw through it for the cynical underhand move that it was.
The Govt simply used the euphoria of the protest march as a cynical and shameful cover to hide the real reason, which was their major financial problems being caused by the engineers.
The Enhances scheme becomes the “Plausible Impossible Scheme”
The new enhanced scheme would remove the independent engineers from having any say on which Option the affected homeowners would get for fixing their houses. This would now be taken ' in-house' and decided by civil servants in the Govt's Housing Agency and at minimum cost to the state.
Also, the hundreds of homeowner applications which had been forwarded to DCC and which contained demolition as the recommended option would now also be reset and they too would be subjected to the new application process of building assessment and damage threshold with every likelihood of a new remediation Option being given.
A 420,000 Euro Carrot would also be included to sweeten the taste for those who now believe they would get demolition in the changeover from the old to the new scheme.
The new "enhanced" scheme should be called the "Plausible Impossible Scheme".
Looks "Plausible " from a distance especially when you mention 420,000 euros until you read the " Impossible " detail contained in the legislation.
The SCSI square foot rate does not apply to options 2, 3, 4 and 5. From listening to spin in the media from commentators such as Engineer Aidan O'Connell no-one in Donegal is justified in getting Option 1 (Demolition) anyway. This is due to the notion constantly being put forward that Donegal properties only contain MICA. As we are seeing from 100s of test results this is just not the case.
Govt Ministers and TD's stood on the platform, shouted out and gave false hope to the homeowners, knowing precisely the truth of what was really coming.
MAG and the 100% Redress group agreed to take part in the Govt working group not recognising the true and underhand reason for the invitation.
They assumed they were in negotiations for an ' enhanced ' scheme but in truth, as the terms of reference prove, they were simply invited to take part in a discussion with senior Govt officials.
The truth of it all became clear when the Govt published THEIR plan for the new scheme at the end of Nov 2021.
It showed that the 90/10 would be replaced with a so called ' enhanced ' scheme many times worse than the first one.
It would take the new scheme in-house and they, the Housing Agency and not the independent engineers, would be responsible for deciding which remediation Option you would get after you first supplied a ' Building Assessment ' which would then be used to determine if you qualified to pass the ' Damage Threshold ' requirements.
Looking at the legislation for the "enhanced" scheme you would be forgiven for thinking it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than access the required solution to fix a building infected with iron sulphides.
The reality bites hard
It became clear MAG and the 100% Redress group had attended the Working Group simply as part of a discussion only and definitely not as part of negotiations . . . a serious mistake as the difference is huge.
With negotiations there has to be agreement between both sides when the process is concluded . . . with discussions it is simply a two way conversation the contents of which the sponsor (Govt) can completely ignore - which they did.
Unbelievably, it is clear to be seen that the new scheme would be a lot worse than the old and additionally they would tighten and close all the identified loopholes.
They were prepared to contribute a grant to the cheap and ineffective replacement of the outer leaf but not the cost of proper remediation.
Justified demolitions and rebuilds, which the engineers were now insisting upon, on the basis of the Petrolab results, because of the existence of Iron Sulphides in the blocks and justifying demolition, were seen as a step too far and anyway not catered for in their unethical IS 465 Standard.
Read the legislation and you will find how watertight it is designed in favour of the Government.
They knew it, the opposition TD's knew it, the Senator's knew it.
The Govt. concept and performance of replacing the old with the new was perfection in its design, its implementation and its underhandedness.
The caring, sympathetic impression being given that they were giving in to homeowner pressure and how they now wanted to be seen to be doing the 'right thing' by the affected families and their crumbling homes was a shameful lie put forward by politicians and civil servants that had no morals, scruples or conscience.
The people are now bound by the legal provisions in the enacted legislation of the so called 'enhanced Def Blocks Scheme' which is a cynical betrayal of the affected homeowners and their families by the political establishment at the highest level.
It has achieved exactly what the Govt set out to do . . . protect the exchequer at all costs.
Another shameful betrayal by the Irish Government.
This premeditated betrayal of the innocent victims of the crumbling homes of Donegal by the political establishment of Ireland - and I include all opposition TD's and Senators who most definitely would have known - will go down in history and rank equally with, if not more, than the many shameful and horrendous scandals that have already littered the historical Irish political landscape and stand testament to all that's sordid in the way the affected homeowners have been treated.
Senior politicians at the highest level came to Donegal, spoke with the families and saw at first hand the extent of the disaster.
They listened to the parents as they outlined the dreadful effects it was having on their everyday family life at every level.
The politicians made statements that they understood their plight, expressed statements of great sympathy and promised their children that they would restore their homes.
Little did people know what was really being planned without their knowledge and with the support of these same individuals.
It would be delusional to think that behaving ethically would rank high in the priorities of such people.
⏩ Enda Craig is a Donegal resident and community activist.