March 14: O’Sullivan to proceed with junior cycle reform

the compromise proposal put forward by Dr. Pauric Travers in the dispute over the Junior Certificate require significant further compromise but Minister Jan O’Sullivan told the Dáil she was prepared to accept them as a basis for agreement.

the compromise proposal put forward by Dr. Pauric Travers in the dispute over the Junior Certificate require significant further compromise but Minister Jan O’Sullivan told the Dáil she was prepared to accept them as a basis for agreement.

“In doing so, I acknowledged his considerable effort at achieving a fair and reasonable compromise since being nominated for the role of independent chair by the two unions,” she said. “Under the proposal, teachers are no longer asked to assess their own students for the purpose of State certification. This is a very significant measure in addressing a previous core union concern.”

In not suspending their industrial action, she said the unions had rejected the proposal by Dr. Travers. “I deeply regret that decision,” she said. “The effect of their ongoing action is to seek to prevent teachers from participating in continuing professional development that is available to give them the knowledge and support they need to do their jobs. I also regret that the unions have taken this decision without balloting their wider members on what is a substantially new proposal. No one group can be allowed to exercise a veto on educational reform.”

“I intend to proceed with implementation of junior cycle reform, based on the proposal by Dr. Travers and I will be working with the wider education partners in doing so,” she added. “I remain open to the unions revising their decision.”

O’Donovan highlights costs of sign-off on one-off houses

Sign-off costs for one-off houses currently range from €4,000 to €7,000 plus VAT, Deputy Patrick O’Donovan told the Dáil.

Another problem is some people who have built up quite an amount of experience in recent years, including technologists and engineers, are excluded from being able to sign off for an individual’s mortgage drawdown, he said. Shrinking the number of people who can do this, particularly in rural locations, is adding to the cost burden involved.

“When houses are being built currently, the burden of regulation on signing off on the construction element is fairly onerous,” he said.

“That is because the person who draws down a mortgage for a one-off rural house is not the same as a standard developer. In other words, they are taking 100% of the risk, so it is in their interest that the house is properly built, engineered and overseen.”

Deputy O’Donovan said the Minister of State Paudie Coffey would not find anyone knocking on his office door at the Custom House having had difficulties with a one-off rural house due to planning permission and the way in which such construction is supervised.

“I would like to see some sort of re-examination of the building regulations regarding one-off houses,” he said. “This re-examination should include architects, engineers and technicians with years of experience in the design, construction and supervision of such projects, including the drawdown of mortgage stage payments for one-off rural houses,” he added.

In response, Minister of State Coffey said “In relation to single dwellings, common problems which have come to the attention of my Department include inadequate drainage and septic tanks, necessitating the introduction of an inspection regime; sub-standard energy performance arrangements, as evidenced from the national building energy rating database and occasional structural problems arising from poor workmanship or poor choice of materials,” he said.

Over 5,000 construction projects have commenced, to date, since the new regulations took effect on 1 March 2014, he said Over 1,100 of these are new build single dwellings. This is a significant number of projects and already a significant number of home owners, builders and other professionals are gaining direct experience of advancing one-off housing projects under the new arrangements.

“These dwellings will now enjoy the benefit of statutory certification of their design and construction, having been inspected and certified by the builder and a registered construction professional who have lodged compliance documentation with the local authority, where it is validated and included on a public register,” he said.

“While costs are determined by market forces and are therefore outside the scope of my regulatory powers, I recognise the importance of ensuring that the regulations do not impact unduly on one-off housing, particularly in relation to cost.