It might be expected that when it is brought to the attention of the leader of this State that a group of citizens is being treated shabbily by public or private agencies, or both, with dire consequences for their lives and welfare, he would attempt to get to the heart of the issue and find a resolution. Residents of Belmayne
situated on the north Dublin ‘fringe’ would have been dismayed, therefore, to see Taoiseach Enda Kenny react in exactly the opposite way when some serious issues they face were outlined to him in the Dail on Wednesday.
Belmayne is a large new residential area which opened around 2005. Some of the apartment blocks are of four storey timber frame construction, a relatively recent development in this State. From the beginning of their residency, a substantial number of new homeowners experienced serious noise problems in their new homes. Sound travelled easily between apartments causing grave disturbance and stress. That such a defect should exist is quite incredible in view of the fact that some of the four bedroom apartments were sold
for €600,000. These, by the way, were purchased, not by wealthy people but by middle income workers in what they thought at the time were steady and safe jobs.
Acoustic experts, engaged by residents to investigate, quickly identified more serious problems than noise. When plasterboard was removed to check on sound insulation, it could be seen that there were serious breaches of building regulations for fire safety. In essence killer smoke and fire could travel rapidly from one apartment to the next because there was a lack of required fire retarding measures in
In March 2010, a number of residents had a meeting with the Chief Officer of Dublin City Council and the developer where evidence, including detailed photographs, was presented by a fire expert for
the residents. According to the residents they were assured that the Council would deal expeditiously with their problems.
A Fire Inspector did arrive out at Belmayne in April and carried out an inspection. The evidence was clearly displayed to him, photographs were taken and residents were certain that rapid remedial action would
On July 8 an email was received from the Chief Fire Officer that horrified the affected residents. He wrote that following an inspection by a fire engineer, ‘there is no reason for you to be concerned that your premises is of deficient construction from a fire safety point of view.’ This was extraordinary in view of the blatantly
obvious facts on the ground. Residents suspected that Dublin City Council were trying to cover over the deficiencies for various reasons.
Insurance companies, FBD and Zurich, did not delay however in refusing new fire insurance cover in Belmayne.
Now Dublin City Council says that in January of this year, they were informed by the developer in Belmayne that there was after all a problem. The story went that a pipe had leaked in an apartment and when the plasterboard was removed, defects in fire prevention measures were noticed. The Minister of Housing attending Cabinet, Jan O Sullivan, told the Dail on Tuesday afternoon that, ‘The (Dublin City) Fire Officer carried out an inspection and determined that remedial action was necessary and timely.’ Dublin City Council were giving the impression that they had just learned of fire safety issues in Belmayne covering up the extensive amount of information that had been revealed to them since March.
The developer has just told residents they may have to move out for three or four days for this work. On Wednesday morning in the Dail, when the Taoiseach was being appraised of this disgraceful situation,
he chose to divert attention from the real issues by pretending that is Minister of Housing was being accused of telling lies when he knew well the point was that she had repeated what she had been told, not knowing the real situation.
The question that arises is why stressed out residents were fobbed off and misled by Dublin City Council fire authorities with such serious issues at stake. Was it that the fire safety defects revealed that there was not proper oversight of the construction by the building regulation authorities thus allowing widespread non compliance? Was it that Dublin City Council, at the time these problems were brought to its attention, was in the process of buying or had already bought in Belmayne 25 hitherto unsold residential units without proper
investigation? Was it that the whole certification process for new building is seriously flawed?
The government cannot obfuscate on this. The lives of residents and their wellbeing are too important for that. The Minister for the Environment must initiate a thorough investigation. He must now demand immediate enforcement of the regulations no matter what that costs and the costs must be met by those responsible.
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