Urgent provision of fire safety equipment needed to keep Celtic Tiger homes safe

Ivana Bacik TD
12 June 2023

Labour Leader and Housing Spokesperson Ivana Bacik TD has said that more urgency is needed to make good on commitments previously given by the Minister for Housing to people living in homes with construction defects.

Deputy Bacik called for the speedy publication and implementation of the draft Fire Safety Code of Practice.

According to her, those who live in apartments without state of the art fire alarms should be provided with them without delay.

Deputy Bacik said:

“It is nearly a year since the now-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed to me in the Dáil Chamber that assistance would be provided to people who, through no fault of their own, purchased homes with construction defects.

“We know that a scheme to carry out full remedial works on all affected homes will take time. However, the Report of the Working Group to Examine Defects in Housing, which reported to the Government in July 2022, also made interim recommendations which do not require legislation. These should be implemented without delay.

“Among the recommendations made by the Working Group was the drafting of a Code of Practice to deal with interim fire safety measures.

“These measures would ensure safety and peace of mind for people who are living in homes which are affected by fire safety defects. Now that we know that scale of the problem – it is thought that up to 80% of Celtic Tiger era apartments may be affected – there is no excuse for failing to implement these basic safety measures, in anticipation of more comprehensive remediation works when the complete scheme is finalised.

“People from across the country have contacted me, fearful that the apartment which they call home may be unsafe for them and their families. They tell me that they are unable to move somewhere else due to the housing crisis.

“This problem is compounded by the fact that selling a home with fire safety defects is more difficult, as prospective buyers are reluctant to purchase an unsafe home. While selling up may be a solution for individual families, it is not acceptable for policymakers to allow anyone to move into an apartment which may be fundamentally unsafe. Better equipment and up-to-date codes of practice are needed now.

“I echo the calls of the Construction Defects Alliance, who have asked the Minister for Housing to put in place a Temporary Administrative Scheme to allow for the roll-out of vital interim fire safety measures to begin this year.

“The harrowing scenes of the Grenfell Tower fire disaster, which took the lives of 72 people and decimated a London community six years ago this week, serve as a reminder of the worst risks associated with fire safety defects in people’s homes.

“Ensuring that people have effective fire alarms in their bedrooms, and around their homes, is of utmost importance for ensuring the safety of everyone, and for allowing people living in affected properties to sleep easy at night. I have also heard from people whose fire exits are not secure and which need to be fixed. All these concerns can be alleviated by the speedy publication and implementation of a new Fire Safety Code of Practice.

“Finally, I restate Labour’s calls on the Minister for Housing to ensure that legislation for the remedial works remains a priority.

“A legislative framework must be put in place in advance of any general election. The recent experience in my constituency of Dublin Bay South, where we saw the Department of Housing appearing to row back on commitments made by former Minister for Housing Simon Coveney TD for the provision of social and affordable housing at the former Irish Glass Bottle Site, underlines the importance of political accountability in the making of promises.

“I hope that Minister O’Brien will make good on the commitments he made to people living in defectively-built homes before his Government’s mandate comes to an end.”

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