herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Kelly wants city council to use property tax cash for firetrap apartments fix

Minister Alan Kelly believes property taxes may be able to pay for repairs at the Longboat Quay apartments
Minister Alan Kelly believes property taxes may be able to pay for repairs at the Longboat Quay apartments
Minister Alan Kelly

Environment Minister Alan Kelly wants to channel a portion of Dublin City's property tax proceeds towards carrying out the urgent repair works at the Longboat Quay apartments, the Herald has learned.

Mr Kelly's officials believe the country's largest local authority has the funding available through property tax receipts to resolve the safety defects.

Dublin City is one of a small number of councils that have the financial capability to reduce property tax bills for residents by a full 15pc.

READ MORE: 'We may have to take legal action over costs', say residents

But even after such a cut is imposed, the council still retains around €50m to spend on services.

READ MORE: Taoiseach Enda Kenny: 'I won't ring developer Bernard McNamara about Longboat Quay'

A senior Government source last night said a decision by the council to cough up at least part of the funding required to repair the defects would "set an important precedent" for other local authorities to follow.

"Even after the 15pc is taken off property tax bills, the council still has substantial funding at its disposal. It's up to the council to step up to the plate," the source told the Herald.

READ MORE: Minister calls for a criminal probe into 'firetrap' controversy

While the distressed residents of Longboat Quay say €4m is required to repair the defects, Mr Kelly's officials believe the bill could be marginally less.

READ MORE: Council 'can't house Longboat residents'

The Labour Party deputy leader met Longboat Quay residents at Leinster House yesterday. Sources say his officials will now contact stakeholders with a view to putting together a set of proposals.

The move by Mr Kelly will pile the pressure on Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan who this week said the council does not have the accommodation capacity to house hundreds of residents if they are made homeless.

READ MORE: Jim O'Callaghan: Law needs to make building firms liable for defective work

Last night, Junior Minister Kevin Humphreys said Mr Keegan must play his part in resolving the issues at the country's newest 'firetrap'

Solution

"It's quite obvious that at this stage, all stakeholders have a responsibility in coming together to find a solution. That includes the docklands, receiver, and the Dublin City manager," the Dublin Bay South TD said.

One source also said attempts are also afoot to communicate with Longboat Quay developer Bernard McNamara.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday told the Dail he will not personally be making such a phone call.

He had been asked to contact Mr McNamara by Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald who said that while the residents were living in fear "Mr McNamara is rebuilding his property empire".

The Taoiseach indicated that he would not contact the developer directly.

"You want to say on your instruction that I rang him up," he told Ms McDonald, while denying that he was washing his hands of the issue.

He said that the case was not as simplistic as she had presented and there were questions for the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Dublin Fire Brigade and the management company. Ms McDonald raised laughter in the Dail when she asked her fellow deputies if any of them had a number for Mr McNamara so that she could give him a call herself.

Also speaking yesterday, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin called for a full audit of all Celtic Tiger-era properties to be conducted by local authorities.

"There are lots of legacies from the poisonous period of the Celtic Tiger," Mr Howlin said.

"Obviously the economic destruction of Ireland was the most egregious one of them, but there are others that we will be living with for a while and one of those is the lax building standards that were allowed to happen on the previous government's watch," he said before yesterday's Cabinet meeting.

He said people are entitled to expect homes paid for good money to be up to a decent safety standard.

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