Everyone here should fully support the Bill before the House. The Construction Industry Register Ireland, CIRI, needs to be put on a statutory footing. Since 2014, builders, contractors, subcontractors and trades people have, on a voluntary basis, registered and demonstrated their bona fides. What is desperately needed is to put this on a statutory footing, thereby providing in law for the regulation of builders, contractors and specialist subcontractors. Overall, this should result in the development a culture of competence, good practice and compliance within the building sector.
I wish to raise a few issues. There is a gang in Munster currently advertising in a number of local papers and online. They say that they will come and work all sorts of magic on the roof of your house and will spray it with a coating that will outlive you. They say that you will have a fantastic house and it will stand up to all sorts of weather. They are going into the attic, they are painting the eaves with Ronseal, the fence paint, and they are using expanding foam on the eaves of the roof. I have seen it in one house. It is an absolute con job. The sooner we have a regulatory framework, which is enshrined in law, and ensure those who enter one's yard or front door can demonstrate their bona fides in terms of their trade and their competency to carry out high-quality work and show they are not scam artists, the better. It will be one of the big benefits of this legislation. Those who are building quality homes in Ireland or carrying out remedial works on homes are skilled people. They have spent time in apprenticeships through SOLAS, they have spent time in college or they have spent time learning the trade hands-on in a building environment. What we certainly do not want is these white vans appearing in vulnerable people's front yards, with builders canvassing for work and offering to do this miraculous work for a very hefty fee. When they are up in the attic, they will tell you there is something wrong with the chimney. When they are up in the chimney, they will tell you there is something wrong with the caps, and on and on it goes. They are fleecing people. There is an example that is very much in my mind, but I will not disclose it here in the Dáil today because the Garda has a handle on it. That needs to happen more often. I hope that by putting forward this regulatory framework, that practice, which has somehow become more widespread in rural Ireland throughout the Covid pandemic, can be tackled a lot better.
In my remaining time, I wish to speak about two other issues relating to the construction trade. Currently, there is an acute shortage of materials, such as insulation, steel and timber, required for construction. It is leading to colossal price inflation. There is one builder in my home county of Clare who has sent me a number of WhatsApp messages already this week from building providers, stating that the cost of steel has gone up by 11% since the new year. That is on top of a 20% increase since August 2021. It is something similar with timber and insulation. Much of it is coming from Northern Ireland and mainland Britain. It is impossible to get. When it becomes available, it is auction stuff, with one builder offering to pay more than the other. All of this means that housing is becoming more expensive. We have a national debate on just how difficult it is to get housing, how difficult it is for someone to get keys for a property and a roof over his or her head.
This Government and, indeed, all European governments put their heads together 12 months ago just when vaccines were being rolled out. They put their heads together and rectified problems in the supply chains of vaccines and PPE, which now flow richly throughout the EU. Ireland has one of the highest vaccination rates. The point I am trying to make here, and the reason I referenced that example, is that the Heads of State in Europe and the ministers for housing across all member states could put their heads together. Previously, they were able to fix supply chain issues. The states of the European bloc also need to work together to rectify the issues relating to the supply chain of building materials that is so critically required for construction.
Finally, I wish to speak on a point that is close to my heart and that of the Acting Chairman, namely, pyrite. For many months now, a very loud, voluminous debate has been happening nationally about pyrite and mica in homes in counties Donegal and Mayo. A review group has been established. There have been countless meetings here in Government Buildings with the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, where senior officials have sat down with stakeholders from those two counties to find out what their problems are and to devise an improved scheme. Homeowners in County Clare, to their immense frustration, have been left out of that process to date. They, too, are looking at crumbling walls, have fascias and soffits coming away from the roof, and have corners at the gable end where you could fit a hand through. I have seen it, as has the Acting Chairman. It is very prevalent in our county. It is crucial that Clare homeowners are brought into the fold, even at this eleventh hour. I know that it is an aim of Government, before the new redress scheme goes live, hopefully in late February or early March, to look at the costings and the financial model around redress. Even at this late stage, Clare homeowners need to be part of that. Frustratingly, things have been delayed in County Clare. Five new core samples have been sent to a laboratory in England for testing. Hopefully, that data will come back very shortly and will be submitted to the Minister of State's Department. I have spoken to the Minister of State's colleague, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, who is a party colleague of mine. We do not want any delays when this goes in. It is the case of an addendum to the application for redress in County Clare. It is a clarification of detail on top of a huge volume of evidence that is already with the Department. There is pyrite in County Clare. There are crumbling homes and people who are at their wits' end. They need a redress scheme very quickly. I ask that it is prioritised and that there is no more dithering, procrastination or requests for additional information. This has to happen, and it has to happen in the quickest possible time. Tomorrow afternoon, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage will meet with our chairperson, Deputy Carey, me and other Deputies and Senators in the county. The Minister of State may also be at that meeting. We appreciate the involvement of the Minister of State and the high-level engagement. This needs all shoulders to the wheel. This needs to be the year that redress is delivered.
I will conclude by saying that we have been very grateful that all along, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage promised us that whatever benefits accrue to counties Donegal and Mayo will accrue directly to homeowners in County Clare. When I saw the new scheme for counties Donegal and Mayo, my eyes lit up. I thought it was fantastic - the 100% redress scheme that everyone wanted. However, the devil is in the detail, and in the days that followed, as we studied it, we realised it was not all as attractive as we had previously believed. There is an urgency now over the next eight or nine weeks to improve terms for counties Donegal, Mayo and Clare. I ask the Department to give us our scheme, and one that demolishes homes, rebuilds them and puts a structurally safe roof back over families' heads.