Attorney general: mica homeowners would put 'tremendous pressure' on council officials

The attorney general warned the housing minister that mica-affected homeowners would put “tremendous pressure” on officials to get the best possible deal under the state redress scheme and that councils may not assess claims independently.

Then attorney general Paul Gallagher told housing minister Darragh O’Brien that relying “on engineering reports from applicants will not only greatly increase the cost of assessment but will lead to significant abuses” of the scheme. 

Gallagher, in the private correspondence marked “very urgent”, advised O’Brien on how to limit how much the state would have to pay homeowners and of his concern that those affected in Donegal may seek rebuilds rather than repairs.  

‘Councils wouldn’t be able to verify that applications were legitimate’

Attorney general Paul Gallagher expressed concern in his letter to Darragh O’Brien about the capacity of local authorities to administer the government’s mica scheme. 

“It is unclear whether any of the local authorities have the resources, expertise or capacity to properly assess claims by reference not just to the relevant standard for determining payment but also by reference to the appropriate remedial option and any other applicable terms and conditions that impact on eligibility/payment,” he wrote. 

Gallagher wrote in his letter to O’Brien that a council wouldn’t be able to “verify” that applications were legitimate. 

He wrote, “It is barely conceivable that the local authorities will have the requisite time, expertise, resources, or capacity to properly scrutinise and verify the applications for compliance with conditions.” 

The attorney general told O’Brien he thought applicants would pressure their local county councils. 

“It is almost certain that local authorities will come under tremendous pressure from people living in the locality, and more particularly individual officials in the local authorities will come under such pressure, when assessing the applications. This will make it very difficult for them to rigorously and independently examine and assess applications,” he wrote.

He told O’Brien state-appointed engineers should inspect houses concerned otherwise, according to Gallagher, “significant abuses” would occur. 

“I also remain strongly of the view that individual houses, in respect of which claims are made must be assessed by independent engineers acting on behalf of the state and appointed by it. I believe that reliance on engineering reports from applicants will not only greatly increase the cost of assessment but will lead to significant abuses for the reasons already discussed,” wrote Gallagher. 

The Department of Housing has been contacted for comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors