world : Political gains in fight for crumbling homes redress

world : Political gains in fight for crumbling homes redress
world : Political gains in fight for crumbling homes redress

Wednesday 12 June 2024 10:50 PM

Nafeza 2 world - A tiny political party born out of a building scandal has taken on the big guns - and made gains - in the Republic of Ireland's local elections.

The "accidental politicians" of the 100% Redress Party have taken four seats in rural County Donegal.

They are demanding better compensation for the many people whose homes are crumbling because they were built with defective mica blocks.

Buoyed by the result, they are now thinking of targeting seats in the Irish parliament in the upcoming general election.

Many houses in counties Donegal, Mayo, Clare and Limerick are crumbling because the blocks they were built with contain high levels of the mineral, mica, which absorbs water, causing walls to crack.

The government's mica redress scheme - which was first announced in November 2021 - is currently capped at €420,000, at a total cost to the exchequer of €2.2 billion.

But Ali Farren from The 100% Redress Party said the scheme should not have a cap.

He stood for the party in the Carndonagh electoral area and stormed home on the first count at the weekend.

Party colleague Joy Beard was elected in the Buncrana area and Denis McGee in Glenties.

Tomás Seán Devine ran for the party in the Letterkenny electoral area, and was elected on Monday night.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle's North West Today programme on Monday morning, Mr Farren said: "When somebody tops the poll, that sends a message."

He said that while the party focuses on one issue, "it's an issue that affects [people] right across the county".

"We knew the problem in north Inishowen [in Donegal] was bad," he said.

"But when I started knocking doors, I realised it was extremely bad.

"This is an issue that is affecting every second or third house in this area."

Mr Farren has a house in Malin Head, County Donegal, which is due to be demolished because of mica-affected blocks.

He and his party colleagues have their sights set on even bigger things, including the Irish parliament.

"We would certainly be considering looking for a candidate to go to Dublin because that's where you need to be," Mr Farren said.

"That's where change can happen."

The 100% Redress Party was formed at the end of last year.

At the time, Ali Farren said that while they would initially select candidates in the Donegal area, they would then reach out to groups in 14 other counties where defective blocks are an issue.

The Irish government's mica redress scheme is currently capped at a maximum of €420,000 - at a total cost to the exchequer of €2.2 billion.

But the party says the redress scheme needs to go much further and cover the total cost of rebuilding homes that have to be demolished.

Mr Farren has a house in Malin Head, County Donegal, which is among those facing demolition.

He has said he will be out of pocket to the tune of €50,000 to €100,000 under the current terms of the mica redress scheme, which he described as "not fair or equitable".

"It wasn't really a vote for Ali Farren or for Joy Beard in south Inishowen. It was a vote for the 100% Redress Party," Mr Farren said.

"The six candidates of us that ran, all we are is accidental politicians.

"We are just people who bought defective concrete and that's the bottom line."

He added: "I'm just a small business owner who works in the community.

"Denis McGee is a man that puts up plasterboarding on ceilings.

"Three weeks ago he was plasterboarding and today he's a councillor.

"Tomás Devine is a man that cuts lawns and cleans streets.

"So we're just 'Joe Soaps'.

"But we're not stupid and we will learn fairly fast."

Pointing to voters who gave "us a voice", Mr Farren said: "At the moment we have a [mica redress] scheme that's not fit for purpose.

"People can't get on it. People can't even get help to get on it.

"Ultimately, we will be working to deliver a better scheme."

The Fianna Fáil party leader, Micheál Martin, said he wasn’t worried about the success of The 100% Redress party in Donegal affecting support for his party.

Fianna Fáil sources have told BBC News NI that there were concerns the current TD and Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, could lose his seat in an upcoming general election because of unhappiness in the area over the government's redress scheme.

Mr Martin said the redress scheme currently offered was "comprehensive".

"There are frustrations around delays, but it is extensive," he said.

"We will evaluate performances in different counties."

He added that he is not worried about Mr McConalogue losing his seat in the next general election.

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