I thank the Minister of State responsible for housing, Deputy O'Sullivan, for attending. The revelation last week that there are serious fire safety problems at Belmayne, Dublin 13, was absolutely shocking to residents of the estate and to people across the whole Dublin north fringe in Dublin North-East. After the Priory Hall disaster, it is truly incredible that another problem of fire safety has arisen close-by in Belmayne. In other areas of the north fringe, residents already faced the ongoing challenges of dealing with pyrite remediation and the Priory Hall issue. They now face another appalling set of circumstances.
I was first informed by the voluntary housing body Clúid that at least 225 homes in the area are affected by the fire safety problem. Some media reports state up to 300 homes are affected. Could the Minister of State clarify this? Does she know how many homes will have to be evacuated while repairs are being carried out? How long will it take? How will residents be rehoused and compensated while their homes are subject to remediation work?
The first priority is to resolve the matter for Belmayne residents and to ensure the fire safety features in all homes on the estate and the whole north fringe are of the highest possible standard and subject to remediation. Serious questions need to be asked yet again about the planning and fire safety regulatory authorities and how this situation could possibly have occurred yet again in the north fringe. Residents feel the Department, Dublin City Council and the developer, builder and management company - Kitara Limited, LM Developments and Stanley Holdings - have kept them in the dark and let them down very badly in respect of the way in which this matter has come to public attention. It has been reported, for example, that fire-stopping features in the homes involved are defective because of a small gap having been left in the plasterboard dry lining. This would allow smoke and fire through if a fire were to take place.
I contacted the fire chief, the Dublin City Council housing manager, Mr. Brady, the city manager, Mr. Tierney, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, last week and asked a number of questions that I would like the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, to answer this afternoon. I want to know whether the fire brigade invigilated the estate and when the fire safety certificates were issued, and whether the fire brigade raised any concerns regarding the timber frame construction of apartments and homes. A very unusual method of construction was used in a significant part of Belmayne. Most important, did the fire brigade ask about fire safety standards when the city manager, Mr. John Tierney, recently purchased 45 units, which are managed for the local authority by Clúid? Can the Department, Dublin City Council and the fire brigade confirm that constituents are not in immediate danger? Can an urgent repair programme be carried out without the evacuation of all the affected homes? What urgent action will the fire authority and Dublin City Council take to ensure the safety of my constituents?
The executive manager of the fire brigade told me that, in early 2011, investigations were carried out in Belmayne estate by the fire brigade following complaints by three residents. The investigation concluded that Dublin Fire Brigade is not recommending any further action in relation to the Belmayne development, yet we heard one of the householders concerned complain bitterly on the Joe Duffy show last week that this issue was not followed up at the time. I hope the Minister of State will answer these questions.
It was reported in theSunday Independent this Sunday that, in 2006, inspections of Priory Hall estate were carried out by officials of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and that a departmental inspector subsequently raised fire safety and building control concerns, including the absence of fire collars on pipes and poor and inadequate insulation. This was in addition to a health and safety investigation in 2006 which closed down the Priory Hall estate as it was being built. Ms Sinéad Power, one of the outstanding leaders of the Priory Hall residents and a constituent of mine, asked me today whether the Department knew about fire safety defects in 2006 and whether her life and those of all her neighbours were put at risk by the Department for the past five years. Will the Minister of State respond to these allegations regarding the continuing Priory Hall debacle?