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Book Review: 'Defects: Living with the Legacy of the Celtic Tiger

Published on 14 September 2021 at 11:04

Following on from the highly popular book, ‘Home: Why Public Housing is the Answer’, which was published in 2019, Sinn Féin TD and Spokesperson on Housing, Eoin Ó Broin, has written his second consecutive book on the topic. This is the latest book of intrigue and is available in most local bookshops.

 

Unlike his previous book, where he discussed why public housing is the answer to the current housing crisis that Ireland is facing, on this occasion Mr Ó Broin ‘reveals how decisions made by governments from the 1960s to the 1990s led to an alarmingly light-touch building control regime’.

 

‘When combined with the greed of Celtic Tiger-era property development, this allowed defective properties to be built and sold in huge numbers to unsuspecting victims’.

‘The results are clear. Families are living in fire-defective and structurally unsound apartments and houses across the state, and homes in Donegal, Mayo and elsewhere are literally crumbling apart as a result of mica and pyrite in defective building blocks’.

 

The book is divided into two different parts. The introductory chapter describes the experience of one particular family after they were the victims of houses in Priory Hall which did not have any ‘fire safety defects’.

Meanwhile, the first chapter described the experience of this family in Priory Hall, as well as a 35-year old man called Mark which lived in Belmayne. According to Eoin Ó Broin, ‘Belmayne epitomised the Celtic Tiger brash self-image of wealth and glamour’.

 

The second chapter delves into the relevant responses and discoveries of these defects by the families while the third chapter talks about the responses by the developers to these defects.

 

Following on from this, the fourth chapter discusses the struggles of the management companies and the complexities associated with the legal ownership of apartment developments. It also dealt with reform to these complexities.  This is followed by a description of the failed response by the state to these defects in the fifth chapter.

 

Ó Broin reflects on the historical issues of dangerous buildings in the state, dating back to the tenements collapsing in 1913.  It also reflects on the tragic night in February 1981 which is known as the Stardust fire and the lack of subsequent reform to address light-touch regulation.

 

This is followed by discussion in the seventh chapter of the reform which took place from the 1990s which culminated in the Building Control Act of 1990.  The eighth chapter delves into the issue of defects and describes housing developments in the Celtic Tiger era which allowed building defects to not be discovered due to the ‘self-certification regime put in place by the Fianna Fáil government in 1990’.

 

The ninth chapter talks about defects and the successes of the Construction Defects Alliance and how it was established while the tenth and final chapter makes the case for real reform to ensure regulation of building control.

 

This book is an essential read for one to grow an understanding of the lack of relation in terms of building control and the problems associated with self-certification that was put in place by Fianna Fáil in the 1990s. It is also an essential read which demonstrates the dramatic failures of the Celtic Tiger period and the need for real reform which addresses the deficiencies associated with building regulation in Ireland.  While it is shorter in quantity compared to his previous book, ‘Home’, it certainly does not lack in quality.


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