McGrath cites cases of Carrick subcontractors left unpaid

Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

Tim Ryan, Oireachtas Correspondent

The case of four different projects in Carrick-on-Suir, all paid for by the State, but where the subcontractors were left high and dry was commented upon by Independent deputy, Mattie McGrath in the Dáil.

Speaking during a debate on a new Construction contracts Bill, which aims to protect subcontractors, he said the Ballylynch housing estate was built 30 years ago and it was in a terrible state of decay. Previous Deputies, including Deputy Hayes, and Ministers worked for years, as he did, and it was finally announced that €4 million would be allocated for the project.

“I accept there was a bond but no bond covers the contractors,” he said. “Thank God the bond covers the local authority. The company in question has left the project high and dry. It has gone bust and left a trail of destruction after it, including unpaid bills. Ordinary, decent, hard-working people who gave services and supplies cannot get paid. Thankfully, the Council has the bond which, according to the Town Manager to whom I spoke, ensures the bondholders can send in a company to certify the work carried out to date is structurally safe and appoint a new contractor to continue the work.”

However, Deputy McGrath said that was of little good to the small contractors who had provided the machinery to dig out the foundations, supplied blocks and concrete, the craftsmen and tradesmen who have laid blocks, those who supplied and put in the windows and put on the roof and the painters and plumbers.

“What happened was disgraceful,” he said. “Rip-off Ireland was never better. Some of those companies knew they would never pay the subcontractors. That is what happened. I am a subcontractor myself but, thankfully, I have not been caught for years. I did get caught on a big project in Clonmel. My wife manages the business and any time some of those companies rang looking for me to do work, she did not even tell me they called. She wanted to keep away from them because a lot of them were fly-by-nights. They had big names and everything else but they were spending the money elsewhere and they had no notion of paying the contractors.”

Healy seeks changes to new abuse compensation Bill

A proposal from the Minister for Education and Skills that school infrastructure be transferred at no cost to the State to make up a €200m shortfall by the Catholic Church for compensation for victims of child abuse was supported in the Dáil by Tipperary South Independent deputy, Seamus Healy.

He said he understood the cost to the State would be €1.36 billion overall and he supported the proposal that it be shared 50:50 by the congregations and the State.

Speaking on a new Bill which establishes the residential institutions statutory fund, he said he had heard what many of the survivors had said from other Deputies but there was a widespread belief among the survivors that the €110 million, which had been painfully recovered from the orders and the congregations concerned, should be distributed to the victims through an adjustment mechanism by the Residential Institutions Redress Board before it is dissolved.

“There is concern about the age profile of many of the survivors,” he said. “There is no doubt the age profile is the high 60s, 70s and even 80s and individuals of that age require different supports from younger people. The question of universal care has been mentioned, which I support.”

There was a huge concern among the survivors about the cost of the new Residential Institutions Statutory Fund Board, the chief executive officer, the staff and legal advisers.

“They believe those costs should be borne by the Minister’s Department and not the fund,” he said. “That turned up in the previous legislation in 2005. Section 11(4) of the legislation is silent on who pays. The Minister makes the appointments and sets the conditions and the expenses referred to are paid from the Minister’s Department and not from the fund. This is currently the case with the Education Finance Board but was not for the first three years of its operation because the 2005 Act was also silent on this point.”

Hayes supports more transparency on political funding

The reduction of the maximum amount a political party can accept from any one donor to €2,500 will mean that Irish political funding laws are brought more in line with best international practice, Tipperary Fine Gael deputy, Tom Hayes, told the Dáil.

Speaking on a new Bill that increases transparency in political parties, he said it was also important that the public are aware of their ability to review the annual donation reports for both parties and individual politicians on the Standards In Public Office, SIPO, Commission website.

“It is important to have such transparency whereby people can log on to that site to see at first hand the amounts,” he said.

“The redefining of what constitutes a corporate donor will also mean severe restrictions are placed on companies and trade unions when it comes to political donations,” he said. “Any donor body that is not registered with SIPO will be prohibited from contributing any more than €200 to either a political party or an individual candidate. I note that virtually all of these moves have been welcomed by Government and opposition Deputies alike. It is good to see such a united and determined effort to prevent special interests from influencing what is, and should always remain, a purely democratic process.”

Deputy Hayes said the new Bill will mean that the future of political funding lies in smaller, more widespread donations from members of the public. If anything, this change would mean that all public representatives will need to devote even far more time to the interests of their constituents, something which many people have been doing but it makes it more important for us all to do.