‘’The fire happened … during the day when all the residents were at work and children were still at school … there were no casualties. If had had happened during the night, there could have been multiple fatalities from [lethal ]carbon monoxide inhalation … the smoke spread surprisingly far … indicates a serious fault in the construction”
This quote from an expert reporting on the fire at Airside, Sword during 2007 demonstrates the implications of lack of proper building inspection – ‘there could have been multiple fatalities’. It is ironic that it was such an event – the Stardust fire in 1981 – which led the Building Control Act (1990) and the introduction of formal Building Regulations in this state .
However, Regulations are inadequate unless enforced and we know from the legacy of the past 20 years that land speculators, major developers and big builders and their paid politicians have ensured that instead of proper enforcement of the Regulations, we got ‘light touch regulation’ – in reality completely inadequate inspection rates for buildings – 12-15% targeted as compared to 100% inspection in Britain and the North of Ireland, the USA and most European countries.
In Derby, England, the local authority implements 12 inspections at the critical stages of construction but 85% of houses built in Ireland during the building boom may have had no inspection – even of the capacity of the ground on which the house is built to support the structure.
‘Self-regulation’ enabled developers and the building industry to save billions and they amassed fortunes. The house purchaser taking on huge debt in 40 year mortgages in good faith believed that the Building Regulations provided protection enforced by the state.
Instead, houses suffer major structural damage from pyrite heave – walls and floors cracked, door frames distorted and doors jammed. Bad building allows water to penetrate through walls and roofs into buildings, sound transfer between party walls and floors of apartments allow neighbours to hear everything – literally – from the other side of the wall, inadequate and badly installed thermal insulation leaves people with huge heating bills, faulty installation of drainage means blocked sewage lines and blocked toilets and in many cases the standard of finishes in new housing is very poor. On top of this estates in every county are unfinished with roads and paths in a dangerous state, temporary sewage plants abandoned by bankrupt developers together with flooding problems.
The Fine Gael , Labour Government promised to tackle these issues and Minister Hogan has proposed Amendments to the Building Regulations which show that the Fine Gael and Labour have bowed to the interests of the developers and the building industry.
There is nothing in the proposals to help the tens of thousands of victims of government failure to enforce Building Regulations and who are now suffering ongoing financial and mental stress.
The United Left Alliance have responded to Hogans hopeless proposals through a detailed Private Members Motion which calls on the Government to implement a fully public Building Control function involving inspection of all buildings at all key stages of construction and for the government having failed to enforce the Building Regulations to take responsibility for remedial works to put right the defects listed above as part of an emergency programme of necessary public works and to go after the responsible developers, builders and banks to recoup the costs.
The five ULA TDs led the debate on the Motion on 6th/7th June and the debate can be accessed at Oireachtas.ie under Debates.