Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

The scandal relating to defective building blocks with pyrite and mica has devastated the homes and lives of the families affected. This scandal has hit many areas across the State but it is most acute in Donegal, Mayo and Clare. This scandal is a result of the light-touch regulation and reckless practices of the Celtic tiger years. It is not the fault of the families concerned, it is the fault of those who were supposed to have their backs and who were supposed to be looking out for them. These families have been failed by the system and by the State. These people have worked hard and saved hard to buy homes for themselves and their families and to secure for themselves what everyone deserves, that is, a safe, secure roof over their head and a place to call home. Yet, through no fault of their own, they find themselves in a nightmare situation where their houses are literally crumbling around them.

Meeting recently with some of those affected was a powerful and heartbreaking experience. These people are at their wits' end. They are heartbroken. What has happened to them has taken its toll on their family lives and health, including their mental health. Everything many of these families own is falling in around them. They go to bed at night wondering if their gable wall will collapse or if the chimney on their home or a neighbouring home will fall down. Despite everything they have been through, they remain strong and resolute. These are good people and they are determined to get justice. They are gathered outside this building today and they are welcome to Dublin to pursue justice. They deserve and need the support of all of us in this House, including the Taoiseach, me and every Deputy here.

I promised these families we would do everything we possibly can to advance their cause for a 100% redress scheme. Sinn Féin will lay a motion calling for that support before the Dáil tonight to see that these families and homeowners are insured to get 100% redress. That is what they deserve and nothing short of it will suffice. The scheme that the Government previously put in place is not working. It is letting people down. Under that scheme, some families are expected to come up with up to €100,000 or more to contribute to fixing their homes. Who has that kind of money? It is incredibly unfair.

The campaign and demand for a scheme that covers the cost of rebuilding their homes is right and just. Ba mhaith leis na teaghlaigh scéim a fheiceáil a chlúdóidh an costas a bhaineann lena a dtithe a atógáil. Bheadh sé sin ceart. Is é an t-aon réiteach cóir atá ann ná scéim sásaimh 100% a shocrú.

This nightmare needs to come to an end. These families have been failed by the system and by the State and the current scheme fails them again. They cannot be left in this situation. The only fair solution, therefore, is for the Government to deliver a 100% redress schemes and to do so urgently. I ask the Taoiseach directly to give us and them a clear, unambiguous commitment that the Government will deliver a 100% redress scheme.

First, what has happened to the homeowners in County Donegal, and indeed in counties Mayo, Clare and elsewhere but particularly the vast majority in Donegal, is scandalous. It is devastating for those homeowners. I visited one such home last week owned by the Murtagh family in Raphoe. Last year, I saw the outsides of other houses. What has happened is appalling. We all know the impact it can have on people when one of the key objectives in life to build their family home, and the sweat, toil and effort that entails, is taken away from them, in this case by the supply and provision of defective blocks.

The Government's and my view is that we will do everything we possibly can to help the homeowners and to refine, amend and change this scheme, in consultation with the Mica Action Group, with a view to making sure we have a sustainable scheme that can bring these homes back, make them habitable for the families and give them the experience they originally envisaged when they first took out the mortgage and provided for themselves to build a house.

In fairness, the previous Government, working with the Mica Action Group at the time, brought in the scheme in January 2020 in very good faith. In fact, it was accepted all around. I recall the Sinn Féin spokesman at the time, Deputy Mac Lochlainn, welcomed confirmation of the scheme back then. He identified some issues, in that he believed the banks should have been involved in helping. It is fair to say that it initially got broad acceptance, however. I do not, therefore, believe assertions of bad faith on anyone's part are correct. Everybody wants to do and is interested in doing the right thing here.

The Minister has written to the Mica Action Group and has spoken with it over the last number of days. I spoke with the Mica Action Group on Thursday when I had a meeting with it and Donegal County Council, including the director of housing, the manager and the chairman of the group, Councillor Martin McDermott. Our view is that we should set in train a time-bound process lasting approximately six weeks involving the Mica Action Group, representatives from the different counties, the local authorities and the Department to work on the scheme and iron out all the issues. Different issues apply to different homeowners.

I refer to the figure of €100,000. Nobody wants someone to be caught for €100,000. I acknowledge there are issues about upfront costs that must be dealt with. There are issues around people having to rent accommodation while their house is being rebuilt, which have to be dealt with. There also are other issues and supports that we may be in a position to provide.

I believe that we have to carry out an analysis, however. A number of applications have come in. When I spoke with Donegal County Council, it said that 33% of those houses would have to be rebuilt. An analysis of what has come in so far might give us a good picture of how we amend and improve this scheme overall. Motions will come and go but the work must be done to improve this scheme and ensure that homeowners can avail of it to get their houses rebuilt or repaired without any undue impact on them.

The scale this programme will be far in excess of any other entered into so far. The Department's estimate of the original scheme, which was entered into in good faith, was close to €1 billion. I believe we will go over that €1 billion. The defective argument is also important. Some 31 local building control authorities have extensive powers of inspection and enforcement.

There are the requirements of the building regulations, the EU directive and so on. There are responsibilities on designers, the builders of buildings and the suppliers of bricks as well, of which we cannot lose sight.

I will come back to the Taoiseach.

I am just making that point. Generally speaking, we want to do the right thing by those who were let down by the provision of these defective blocks, which have rendered their homes, in many instances, unliveable and have created great anxiety.

The Taoiseach's time is up.

We want to help them and we are going to do that.

Let us agree that something went catastrophically wrong in respect of mica and pyrite. Something went catastrophically wrong with the blocks that were used to construct these homes. Let us also agree that those responsible for these catastrophic wrongs have to be identified and held to account. I have no argument with the Taoiseach and the people of Donegal, Mayo and Clare have no argument with him on that score. He has called this is a scandal and said it is appalling. He is correct on both counts. He has said he will enter into a time-bound process to put things right. I welcome that because we need to be timely and efficient.

However, what we also need to hear from the Taoiseach, as Head of Government, is that the scheme that is landed on will represent, in reality, 100% redress. The last scheme may have been introduced in good faith but the truth is that it has not worked. That scheme has left families in misery, living this nightmare day after day, night after night. That must stop.

Thank you, Deputy.

We know that the only sustainable and viable redress is 100% redress. I want to invite the Taoiseach again to clearly state that the Government will pursue and deliver, in a timely fashion, a scheme that is 100% redress.

The Deputy's time is up.

The people gathered on the streets of Dublin want to hear the Taoiseach confirm that. Can he confirm it for them, please?

If the Deputy lets the Taoiseach answer, people can hear him.

First, as I said earlier, motions and slogans will not solve this. I had a very good meeting with the Mica Action Group last Thursday. As a result of that, I contacted the Minister again and said, "Let us put in place a process here." The Deputy talks about 100%, but 100% of what? It is not as simple as asserted. That came up in the conversation. There is a whole range of issues we have to discuss in terms of the grant caps, allowable costs, engineering costs, upfront costs and how we can make it easier for the homeowners in this context. That is what we want to do.

Will the Taoiseach answer my question?

That is why the Minister has corresponded with the group and spoken to it. He is anxious to get this up and running as quickly as possible. We will also consult the Mica Action Group on its issues and so on.

Is the Taoiseach committing to a 100% redress scheme?

I make the point that the scheme was entered into in good faith. The Deputy's party colleague welcomed it at the time, as did everybody else.

Is the Taoiseach guaranteeing 100% redress?

The Government is absolutely committed to doing the right thing and is going to provide-----

Will it be 100% redress?

-----exceptional resources to make sure we can make these houses liveable again for the families involved in a way that ensures the kinds of impacts that have been suggested are addressed. Obviously, the working through of the scheme has created a lot of issues, as people have raised. The submission was made to the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien, at the end of April and he is responding to that now.

The time is up.

I want to object to the Taoiseach studiously refusing to answer a very straightforward question about a 100% redress scheme. Will he please answer it?

I answered the question, in fairness.

No, you have not, Taoiseach, and that is very worrying.

With respect, a Cheann Comhairle, this kind of intervention is unprecedented during Leaders' Questions. I will just make the point that I am not exploiting this for political reasons. The Deputy seems to want to exploit every issue for political advancement.

The time is up.

I want to get this issue resolved on behalf of the residents and owners.

Deputy Kelly, please.

For many weeks and, indeed, months, I have been raising the same issue with the Taoiseach in regard to people in the 60 to 69 age group, some people in cohorts 4 and 7, and also some healthcare workers, all of whom were vaccinated with AstraZeneca and who initially had a 14-week wait for their second dose and then a 12-week wait. I am not an immunologist or a scientist, and nor is the Taoiseach, but I believe in common sense. We have a collective need to address this issue now because there is a race on between, one, the Delta variant coming into our country and, two, the vaccination programme we are doing.

The issue is this: these are the most vulnerable people but, compared with their children and many individuals in their 40s, they are going to have to wait for some period before they are vaccinated. We supported the Government in respect of the age-based roll-out but the latter has been negated as a result of this situation. There are 460,000 people in these categories and they will have to wait up to 12 weeks. We are going to have to do something about this. I have raised this with the Taoiseach in a genuine way, week after week. Respectfully, he knows that. He asked for time and said the Government was looking at it and that the national immunisation advisory committee, NIAC, was looking at it.

Since I first raised this issue, I have been inundated with messages. There is deep concern. That concern is intergenerational and involves grandchildren who are worried about their grandparents and sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who are worried about their parents, uncles and aunts. We know from a study in Britain that if a person has the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, he or she is approximately 33% inoculated against the Delta variant. That leaves a major risk for these people. In that light, I ask the Taoiseach if, working with NIAC and, in particular, the HSE, he will bring forward the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine for this group of people? This would ensure that, instead of waiting until the end of July, August or whenever, in a few weeks' time - if supplies are available - all of these people can get their second inoculation. The study in the UK to which I refer shows these individuals will have 80% protection against the Delta variant.

I do not want to get into what the Minister for Health said previously about reducing the period to five weeks because, to be honest, that was a bit of sleight of hand. We need a concrete decision from the Government. These are the most vulnerable people. It is ridiculous that younger people are being fully vaccinated. It is ridiculous that the individuals to whom I refer, who comprise the oldest group in the country to not be fully vaccinated - or at least not yet - cannot travel or do everything that everyone else will hopefully be able to do and have been left in a situation whereby the supposed vaccine bonus will not apply at the level previously indicated. I appeal to the Taoiseach to give us good news that we will be able to bring forward the second dose of AstraZeneca in particular for this cohort.

Deputy Kelly readily acknowledged that he is not an immunologist or an expert in this field.

I do commonsense though.

Most people who say they are not experts then go back to the age-old notion of common sense as a back-up. The point is that the vaccination programme is going well and that it is going well through the age cohort approach and through the vaccination centres. One of the most pleasing aspects of it is the very high level of participation by people as we go down through the age cohorts. Our level of participation is very high relative to our European counterparts and other countries and that is giving good protection to society as a whole. We are close the point where 58% of people will have had their first dose and in the region of 27% will have had their second dose. That is very good progress indeed. Everything is dependent on supplies of both the mRNA vaccines and the AstraZeneca vaccine. We want to keep the programme on target. What the Deputy is suggesting would delay the programme overall, potentially. I am sorry, is he suggesting the mixing of vaccines?

No, but I am coming to that.

The Deputy needs to be fully up front-----

The Taoiseach is answering a question.

-----about what he is proposing. In terms of AstraZeneca-----

That is not appropriate. I never said that so the Taoiseach is answering a question I did not even ask.

In the context of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the announcement has already been made that the second dose is being brought forward. What was to have taken nine weeks, namely, the administering of the second dose, will now take five. That is happening as we speak and the HSE is engaged with that plan. Basically, we will be finishing the second dose of AstraZeneca three to four weeks earlier than was to have been the case. However, we need the necessary supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine and, in particular, the mRNA vaccines, to keep coming in over the next number of weeks in order to make progress down the age cohorts, otherwise we will delay the vaccination programme itself. As the Deputy knows, this is because of the age restrictions when it comes to administering the AstraZeneca and Jansen vaccines.

NIAC has given recommendations in that regard to the HSE.

We must also bear in mind that the vaccination programme is working. What we have learned is that once we start changing or giving mixed signals, this can disrupt the vaccination programme and genuinely undermine it. I am not saying anybody wants to do that in making new suggestions or proposals. That has been the experience and it can affect vaccination take-up and so on. The vaccination programme has worked on the basis that people have received vaccines as they have become available. We are looking at approximately 4.1 million doses to be supplied by the end of quarter 2. We need to keep going. Let us not disrupt a model that is working well right now.

I have been raising this matter repeatedly for a couple of months and, in fairness, the Taoiseach's tone just now was appalling if he was using the matter in a political way. I did not raise the question of a second mRNA vaccine but I had asked if that option had been considered by NIAC. I did not raise it today, although I will always make suggestions that might be considered.

I raise this matter for the 460,000 affected people and I am delighted the Taoiseach has confirmed that the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is being brought forward. Will he confirm that by the middle of July every person in that affected cohort, particularly those between 60 and 69, will have a date for the second dose of AstraZeneca to be administered, which would see 80% efficacy against Covid-19?

Will the Taoiseach look at the script issued on the vaccine bonus? It probably should be reissued. We have been told that because the Janssen vaccine is going to pharmacies, there are not enough people to take up all the doses in the vials. Will the Taoiseach ask for that to be looked at? It would be terrible to see vaccines wasted. If required, common sense and discretion for pharmacists should be the order of the day.

I will have the matter of the Janssen vaccines and its administration in pharmacies looked at. The HSE has already announced that it will move from the current 12-week interval for AstraZeneca vaccine doses down to eight weeks. It has said that within five weeks, we will achieve that eight-week interval. I can double-check that with the HSE for the Deputy but that is the target. Essentially, it is compressing that process.

It is what I have been seeking for months.

It was announced publicly.

Not in that detail.

I am always glad to help or oblige the Deputy on this. It is good news and important. The big issue all along has been supply and the mRNA vaccines in particular have played an outstanding role. AstraZeneca has increased its supply and we are getting greater visibility over that supply, which is positive. Again, we hope the manufacturers and the global supply chain can improve their performance.

The vaccine bonus is what it is. It will continuously be reviewed by the Chief Medical Officer and his team. The latest data from Public Health England show that two doses of AstraZeneca are 92% effective against hospitalisation from the Delta variant and 86% effective against the Alpha variant. That is good news as well.

More than 2,000 nursing home residents have died from Covid-19 in Ireland and more than half of those deaths were recorded in the third wave. The Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA, which is responsible for monitoring standards in all our nursing homes, both public and private, stated in its annual report, which was published last week, that 82% of nursing homes reported at least one case of Covid-19 and the virus still presents a real and present danger to the sector. HIQA is seeking an urgent review of the current nursing home care regulations.

At the same time, we have the Coroners Society of Ireland calling for a wide-ranging inquiry into all Covid-related nursing home deaths.

Its president, Frank O'Connell, believes there is a basis for a more wide ranging inquiry into all Covid related deaths in nursing homes, to deal with such questions as design, ventilation, isolation, staffing etc. Yet as we hear these calls the Department of Health is cutting back on the financial supports to the nursing home sector just as we face into a fourth potential wave from the Delta variant of the virus, which has been so deadly within the sector over the past year. The Department of Health has confirmed that the temporary assistance payment scheme, TAPS, which provides payment for Covid-19 infection control measures is to be completely withdrawn from the long-stay residential sector for older people from the end of this month. Despite the Government categorically stating there would be no cliff edge for Covid supports for any sector, we now find that the State is planning to withdraw this support completely. There is a fear from residents and their families that nursing home care is being de-prioritised at a time when there should be a thorough review of all supports and standards within the whole sector before there is any change to the current scheme.

I put it to the Taoiseach that older people in long-term care have been at the front line when it comes to the threat of Covid infection. The reality is that they remain on that front line until all of us are vaccinated. There remains a threat of a new variant taking hold that circumvents the immunity provided through the current vaccination programme. I urge the Taoiseach to ensure, at the very minimum, that the current level of Covid protections remain in place until the reviews sought by HIQA and the Coroners Society of Ireland are completed.

I thank Deputy Naughten for raising the issue. As society begins to reopen we will be able to reduce our reliance on many different supports that the Government has provided throughout the pandemic. The Covid-19 temporary assistance payment scheme was established as part of a comprehensive package of support measures for nursing homes at the start of the pandemic. It was originally introduced for three months, to conclude in June 2020, but obviously the continuation of the pandemic meant that there were two further extensions. It was and is a successful scheme and it has been very impactful. It provided additional funding to those nursing homes that required it, to contribute to the costs associated with dealing with Covid-19. These included the costs incurred in preparing for and mitigating against Covid-19 and in the management of outbreaks when they occur, contributions towards the costs of maintaining isolation rooms, and a once-off contribution towards temporary visiting infrastructure during winter 2020.

The cessation of TAPS has been communicated with all stakeholders. As of 11 June about 7,148 claims had been submitted and €134.5 million has been allocated or made available under the scheme. It has always been just one component of a suite of supports. Other supports included providing access to personal protective equipment and oxygen, the establishment of Covid response teams, support for staff accommodation, access to training and the serial testing programme. Many of these and other supports will continue for the time being as required. Furthermore, an outbreak assistance payment will continue to be made available until the end of the year as a support for any nursing home that experiences a Covid-19 outbreak.

In addition, it has to be taken on board that the vaccination programme has had a very significant impact on nursing homes. There has been a huge uptake, close to 100%, by residents and staff. The effect is very strong with significant reductions in cases, outbreaks and mortality. This is a factor. We also need to move on from the current temporary schemes to working through the more medium-term reforms that have to happen within the nursing home sector and perhaps the changes that will cost not just the nursing homes but also the State, in light of the Covid-19 nursing homes expert panel report. The panel identified 86 recommendations in the report and the Government is fully committed to its implementation. Costs will arise across the system relating to the necessary systemic reforms. It is best to do that through a more informed and developed scheme as opposed to doing it through a temporary scheme.

We will keep the situation under review. We are fully open to evaluating what happened in nursing homes, outside of the pandemic and right through it, and learning lessons from it.

I thank the Taoiseach. Fifteen months ago, our nursing homes and hospitals received their first Covid-19 patients. Since then, front-line healthcare workers have managed three waves of the virus and a cyberattack. These people are now mentally and physically exhausted. We must provide staff with time off because exhausted healthcare staff are a recipe for mistakes. We must give proper recognition to staff on the front line in the battle against Covid-19. For example, the Scottish Government is paying every NHS worker a bonus of £500. Over the past year, I have consistently raised with the Taoiseach and other members of the Government the issue of recognising front-line workers. They have been selfless and the country owes them a great debt of gratitude. The Government must now recognise their efforts.

That is a separate question, which is more general to the health service. I have consistently said the Government wishes to recognise not only front-line healthcare workers but front-line workers, and is continuing to examine the optimal way of doing this. However, we are not out of the pandemic yet and all our attention and focus are on making sure we continue with progress on the vaccination programme and the very positive impact the vaccination programme is having on the prevalence of the disease and monitoring variants, such as the Delta variant, to make sure they do not undermine our efforts to keep the virus under pressure. We will keep in touch with the Deputy on the issue.

Donegal is the forgotten county. I have said this to the Taoiseach many times before. There we are, up in the north-west of Ireland, happy to be living in the most beautiful county in the country but despairing at how we have been treated by successive Governments. The people of Donegal are making their voices heard now. They are making their voices heard here today. They are harnessing the power of social media and media to say the Government cannot ignore them any longer. There cannot be one rule for Dublin homes in the pyrite redress scheme and another for people in Donegal and Mayo whose homes are crumbling with mica. We will not be forgotten and, wonderfully, the public is behind us in our call for no less than 100% redress.

At the end of May, thousands took to the streets of Donegal to highlight the atrocity and injustice being imposed on homeowners in the county. Today, more than 40 busloads of people have come to Dublin to show the Government they will not be forgotten. At the beginning of 2020, the Government launched the defective concrete block grant scheme for homeowners affected by pyrite in Mayo and mica in Donegal. However, it was in early 2014 that the Mica Action Group was formed. It is a lobby group made up of volunteers directly affected by the scandal. For seven years, it has been seeking redress and liaising with local and national government officials. It has been fighting for recognition for seven years.

The Taoiseach's covert mission to Donegal last week and his photo opportunity with some crumbling walls was far too late. Now that our voices are louder, the Taoiseach has to listen. As the Taoiseach knows, access to the defective concrete blocks grant scheme costs between €5,000 and €7,000 but the cost to access the scheme in Leinster is much lower, at €500. Up to 5,700 homes throughout Donegal and Mayo are crumbling away because of the presence of mica in defective concrete blocks. Approximately 1,000 local authority provided social homes in Donegal are also affected. Tenants are paying rent and hoping their ceilings and walls do not fall down on them.

The Taoiseach said he needed to speak to the Attorney General on the next steps.

No, I did not say that.

Why does he need to check with the Attorney General?

I never said that.

He is reported as having said that. Perhaps he will clarify the matter in his response because I will be glad to hear it. I do not believe the Attorney General has any role in this. Now that the scandal is on a national scale, what will the Taoiseach do? We need 100% redress. An amnesty in mortgage repayments while remediation works are taking place is the only option. Earlier, in response to Deputy McDonald, the Taoiseach asked 100% of what was she calling for. What people are calling for is 100% redress and no cost for people to access the scheme, plus rental costs to be covered, the same as for the pyrite action group in Dublin.

It is as simple as that. That is what Donegal demands.

When I visited Donegal last week, it was not a covert visit. The key focus of that was not only to visit a home, meet the Loftus family and see the appalling condition of their home but also to meet the action group, Donegal County Council and the chairperson of the mica action committee on Donegal County Council, Councillor Martin McDermott, who was in the group, to have a long and thorough meeting with them on the issues they wished to raise with me and with the Government in terms of getting this issue resolved. That was the purpose of the visit.

I had to do it in between meetings I had here and going to Fermanagh for the British-Irish Council. I changed my diary and schedule, which is no big deal, but I wanted to meet people. I believe in getting resolutions. I do not showboat on issues like this. I do not try to make political capital out of it. I have no interest in doing that because for the family owners, all that matters is whether they can build a home for their family and their children. That is what they wanted to do originally.

What happened was disgraceful. The supply of those defective blocks was a disgrace; end of story. I have no interest whatsoever in defending those who were responsible for this. I have an interest in getting the issue sorted.

The previous Government, in good faith, developed a scheme. It was welcomed broadly. It was welcomed by Sinn Féin at the time. Few parties or individuals in this House raised this until quite recently, if the truth be told. I looked at some of the manifestos. It does not even get a mention. It is not even mentioned in the Sinn Féin manifesto. People thought the scheme was okay.

When the scheme started being implemented or when applications started going in, it became known to the homeowners that the upfront costs were far too expensive. We will deal with the upfront costs. Anybody who cannot afford it should not have to pay €10,000 or €8,000 upfront to get an engineering report. We will deal with that. We should also deal with the rental issue but we also need to get a proper assessment. What was clear from the meeting was that there will be different solutions for different houses and for houses of different size. People want certain undertakings in respect of what happens if, in the case of a repair, subsequently the issue arises again. These are the kind of issues that need to be resolved.

I understand fully the anger of the homeowners. I understand what they want. It is now our job as the Government, in good faith and working with the group. The Minister has written to the group. He has spoken to them. He has put this idea to them. Let us have a time-limited engagement with homeowners' representatives, with the local authorities, with the Department officials and work through this so that we can improve this scheme in such a way that does not pose an excessive financial hardship on homeowners. That is, in good faith, what I am putting before the House today, what the Minister has put to the Mica Action Group and what we discussed at the meeting on Thursday last.

The time is up. Thank you, Taoiseach.

It was a good, substantive meeting. Analysis can happen already from the applications that have now come in because many of these are individual homes, as well as local authority homes, as the Deputy will be aware, that have to be rectified.

I thank the Taoiseach. I am glad the Taoiseach put it officially on the record today what happened last week at the meeting because it is important that it is on the record that everybody knows.

The Taoiseach stated last week as well - it has been widely reported that the Taoiseach said he would address it but he has not in his response - that he had to talk to the Attorney General about it. What is the role of the Attorney General? I believe the Attorney General has no role and that will be a deflection.

The Taoiseach states that he will have a time-bound process with five to six weeks to respond. By my reckoning, that five to six weeks would be up on 14 July. Can the people of Donegal expect a response from the Taoiseach and the Government on 14 July that will address their concerns? That is vitally important and that is what people need to hear today from the Taoiseach.

That is the intention. This has gone on too long.

I have looked at the timeline as well. I was not in government for the past ten years but this thing has gone on too long. Homeowners have raised legitimate issues. They have got to be dealt with.

I referenced the Attorney General last week. I have an issue with certain people walking away from this. That is my issue. Who supplied the blocks? Who designed them? As for insurance companies and HomeBond, everyone seems to have walked off the pitch. Banks have a role as well. To be fair to Deputy Mac Lochlainn, when he welcomed this, he thought that banks could have played a useful role in helping people. The Mica Action Group signed off in good faith originally as well, but issues have now arisen.

I have discussed this with the Attorney General. The State cannot forever be held accountable alone in respect of behaviours or actions where others fell short, be they in the private sector or elsewhere. That is the only point I was making, and I wanted the Attorney General to examine that, not just for this Government, but for future Governments and, more importantly, for taxpayers.

I do not want this to be distorted, because there can be an element in this kind of debate of comments being distorted. I am very clear about our role in helping the homeowner, but there is a separate piece of work needed as well to examine this in greater detail in terms of how it came to be that thousands and thousands of homes were supplied with an appalling block. Stand up and-----

I thank the Taoiseach, but our time is up.

Put your hand on the windowsill and it crumbles. To me, that does need to be pursued. That is what I meant.