I propose to take Questions Nos. 16 and 43 together.
The expert panel on concrete blocks has met on four occasions since it was established in April 2016 and is continuing to receive and review the information that has been made available to it on the problems that have emerged in affected homes in Donegal and Mayo. The accusation made by Deputy McConalogue that it is dragging its feet is unfair. It was set up in April. The members of the panel were in Donegal in May. I was there in July. The expert panel members were in Mayo in September. An offer was made to meet Oireachtas Members in July, although not everyone could turn up. Two out of seven Members turned up. The Minister of State, Deputy Joe McHugh, was asked to meet the panel again. That will happen next week. The members of the panel are doing the best they possibly can. It is a major issue and the problems must be analysed properly. It is unfair to accuse them of dragging their feet when they made themselves available as quickly as possible.
A substantial volume of information has been provided by affected home owners in both counties, as well as by Donegal and Mayo county councils, which will be of particular assistance in completing the necessary research to inform the preparation of the panel’s report.
Further meetings have taken place with key stakeholders including affected home owners, the elected members of Donegal and Mayo county councils, whom I have met also, local authority officials, and industry bodies. Additional meetings are anticipated with other stakeholders over the months ahead before the panel concludes its research into the problems that have emerged in the affected homes.
Ultimately, the aim of the panel’s terms of reference is to establish the facts behind the problems that have emerged in Donegal and Mayo and to outline technical options for addressing the problems identified to assist affected home owners.
It is anticipated that the panel will complete its report before the end of the year. I would have liked to have had it done by October or November. It might take a little longer, but in my view, and I have said this on many occasions when I met the home owners in their homes, we have to get it right, and the home owners agree with that approach. They did not ask me to rush it. They asked me to get right and to make sure the panel does the work properly. That is what it is doing. It is a strong panel which is doing good work. It is anticipated that it will complete its report before the end of the year. The Minister, Deputy Coveney, I and the Department will await the outcome of the report. We will have the report first and then we will analyse how we should proceed, but it is important, and I have had this conversation with other Deputies, that the panel members are given the space and the resources to do their work. Most of the groups the panel wanted to meet have met it. Some declined, but it managed to meet most of the stakeholders involved in this, and it is hoped it will be able to recommend solutions.