Complaint to Ombudsman: RIAI & BC(A)R SI.9

by Bregs Blog admin team

The following letter of complaint was sent to the Ombudsman on May 12th 2014 by Amanda Gallagher, self-builder.

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Dear Peter & Colleagues,

I have already lodged a complaint with you some weeks ago.   It refers to the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 – S.I. 9.  and the effect they are having on my family and indeed many families in Ireland who had intended to self build their family homes.  I understand that your office is most busy but I have a further complaint to lodge as I have had four unsatisfactory results from my own questions in letters to the RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland).

I will give you a bit of a background to this 2nd complaint – it centres on the above Statutory Instrument 9. Myself and my husband first met with our architect in October 2012 – that is when we started this whole planning process – we lodged our planning application in early January.  Our architect (who is a registered architect with the RIAI), informed us that due to new building control regulations coming into effect on March 1st, he would have to part ways with us as since we were planning a ‘self build’ he could not work alongside us – we were puzzled. We had already spent €3,000 on the whole process, plans, site tests etc..

I set about researching these building control regulations on google – I came across one honest, architect in Foxford, Mayo, who had it clearly stated on his website that the days of self building will be over on March 1st.  We were absolutely in shock, devastated to be precise.  The very next morning I rang the Department of Environment, community & Local Government, and I spoke to a lady.  She informed me that my husband would be able to sign legal documents within S.I. 9 and declare himself to be a competent builder, ‘but’ she said, would your architect be willing to work with him?  I asked her to post me out a hard copy of the S.I. 9.  This ‘advice’ from that Government Official, I am afraid to tell you, was the very start of the horrendous misinformation that has come from the DOECLG.

After, we studied the S.I. 9 in depth, we were quite sure that the days of self building in Ireland was indeed over, so, my husband went to our local radio station as a plea for help for more information on the S.I. 9 and as a warning to other would be self builders in the area to let them know what is happening.  During the course of this debate on OCEAN FM, a man caled Mr. John Graby, Director of the RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland) was invited on to ‘clarify’ the issue.

My husband was told live on local radio by Mr Graby that ‘he can sign himself as builder on legal documents where it states to be signed by a principal or director of a building company only’.  That day, we were so confused, shocked and worse, disgusted that an official, from the RIAI, would come live on Radio and misinform thousands of listeners.

The Irish Association of Self Builders have written to the RIAI for clarification on the status of self builders and have lodged a complaint to the RIAI about Mr Graby and his ‘advice’ during this Radio Show,

I have sent four letters to the President of the RIAI, Mr Robin Mandal, since March, seeking answers to most pressing, serious questions regarding the RIAI policy on self building. In the links below are my most recent two letters:

http://amandagallagherblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/letter-to-mr-robin-mandal-riai-president/

http://amandagallagherblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/01/letter-to-the-riai-president/

Mr Mandal, responded briefly to my letters, he stated in one response, that my queries had been forwarded to Mr Graby, I was most disheartened to hear this as this man had already misinformed my husband on the issue.  In his last response, Mr Mandal stated that he will contact me shortly with a ‘reasonable response’.  It is now May 9th, and my first letter was sent at the end of March, I find this totally unacceptable and very unreasonable, as a key stakeholder in the talks on the S.I. 9 cannot give me a ‘black or white’ answer to my queries. Surely a law must be clear cut?

I had written several letters to Minister Hogan and to his Department since January and two weeks ago I finally received a response – how shocking that it took nearly four months to answer one person who had most serious concerns regarding a law. Here is the link to the reply I received, please read it as I am sure you have or will receive a similar response to your queries regarding S.I. 9:

http://amandagallagherblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/letter-from-mr-martin-vaughan/

I was so shocked to read more words of misinformation, so I responded the next day with this letter, I ask you to take a minute to read also as it is most relevant:

http://amandagallagherblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/194/

Peter, the way in which we have been treated since January by our Government, their officials and the key stakeholders  has been appalling.  It is appalling that the Minister and his Department are continually giving out misinformation to the Nation, it is appalling that the RIAI, one of the major key stakeholders cannot give clients a ‘reasonable response’, It is appalling that my family, and every other family the S.I. 9 has affected have been left in limbo by the State, it is appalling that I, an ordinary citizen, have had to define ‘fraud’ to Government Officials, it is appalling that a Minister and his Government Officials are encouraging citizens to commit fraud and to proceed with illegal builds, just to make their life quieter – because, when the Nation grasps the terrible unjust law that has been passed, in secret meetings, with key stakeholders that each came out of the talks in a dominant position and in financial security – the Nation will be outraged.

I encourage the office of the Ombudsman to research the S.I. 9 for yourselves, when this terrible injustice is finally investigated, and it will be, please don’t let the Ombudsman’s office be left wanting in their efforts to help the ordinary citizens of this country.  I am sure you are well aware that the people of this country have had their fill of scandals revolving around Government, money, corruption and sheer lack of professionalism etc..  We all need our Government to work for us in a fair, transparent and just way.

You know Peter the S.I. 9 is a totally  irrational law – especially to self builders as the S.I. 9 forces self builders to employ a building contractor – we are no longer free to employ our own tradesmen – a building contractor may be merely a businessman – he may have been a butcher before he called himself a ‘builder’.  I would like to point out to you that a building contractor does the exact same thing as a self builder – we both study plans, purchase materials, employ tradesmen, listen to professionals – there is one difference however, the building contractor gains a hefty profit and puts a lot less love into the build!

I would like these issues cleared up immediately as we need to get on with our build, but we cannot start while it is illegal in this country to self build.

No matter what statements are issued by the government, they will never change the Law of the Land – and that Law states that to build a home one must be a principal or director of a building company only.  You will note that Mr Vaughan states in his response to me that there have been self builds commenced since March 1st (the introduction of S.I.9) reading between the lines he means to say ‘others are self building, why don’t you just be quiet and do the same?’.  Those others, are either very gullible to break a law just because Minister says its ‘okay’ or they are very crafty to break the law because they see a window of opportunity, whereby they can get the thing built before anyone ‘cops on’ – whichever they are, they have, unfortunately, committed a crime, and so have their Assigned Certifiers and the Building Control Offices that have accepted illegal documents.  We, on the other hand, want to build a home for our family legally.

I understand that The Good Friday Agreement states that on the Island of Ireland, North & South, we all should have equal opportunities and equal rights.  The S.I.9 is a definite infringement of the Good Friday Agreement as across the border, as near as Belcoo, the citizens there can self build a beautiful home, claim all VAT back at the end and live ‘happily ever after’.  The S.I. 9 is a terrible unjust law which discriminates against self builders and shows favouritism to the builders & developers of the CIF.  You wouldn’t hear the likes of it in any other country, in fact, every country in the world permits self building, even North Korea & Russia.  Ireland is now the only country to ban self building.

Peter, I was under the impression, that today, in modern Ireland, we were not allowed to discriminate against any person, let alone our Government to pass laws that discriminate against any person – am I wrong in this thinking?

The S.I. 9 is scandalous, but wouldn’t you think that the Government, who were brazen enough to introduce such awful legislation would be courageous enough to admit it – but they not only lack courage – they are totally spineless for misinforming the Nation on this issue.

I do hope that I hear from you soon, and that you are in a position to assist us in our complaint against the Minister, the DOECLG and Mr John Graby of the RIAI.

Regards,

Mrs Amanda Gallagher

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