Other News In Brief

Executive Urged To Step In And Assist Victoria Square Apartment Residents

The SDLP has called on the Executive to step in and assist the residents of Victoria Square apartments.

Residents were forced to leave the apartments in 2019 due to safety concerns, but on Wednesday, 13 March, a court ruled they were not entitled to compensation because more than six years had elapsed since the work was completed.

SDLP Leader of the Opposition Matthew O'Toole has raised the issue with Finance Minister Caoimhe Archibald.

Mr O'Toole, the Finance Committee Chair, said the situation was profoundly unfair and asked the Minister to work with her Executive colleagues to introduce legislation to compensate those impacted.

South Belfast MLA Mr O'Toole said: "The situation impacting apartment owners at Victoria Square is hugely unfair and my heart goes out to them after what they have gone through over the past few years. These people were forced out of their homes with no notice and have thus far received zero compensation, which has left the lives of many affected in limbo as they fight to see this situation resolved.

"I understand the limitations facing the court today, but when you consider that homeowners in England and Wales have 30 years in which to make similar claims after issues arise then it's clear that people in the North are not receiving the protections they need when it comes to properties like these.

"The judge was clear that a further claim may be possible if the Executive moves to update legislation here and I urged the Finance Minister to work with her fellow Ministers to do so. This ordeal has taken a huge toll on those affected, including a charity, they have been expected to pay a number of continuing charges since these structural defects first appeared and they cannot be expected to swallow this cost. Ministers need to step up to make the necessary changes to give these homeowners the compensation they deserve and the SDLP Opposition will keep making that case until we reach a positive outcome."

SF Calls On Education Minister To 'Do More' To Support Irish-Medium Education

Sinn Féin has called on the Education Minister and his Department to do more to support Irish-Medium education.
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West Belfast MLA, Pat Sheehan, said: "Following listening to representatives from Irish-Medium schools, I challenged the Department of Education in committee today on their failure to properly invest in accommodation and other resources for Irish-Medium schools.

"Some of these schools have been in so-called temporary accommodation for over twenty-five years, they have waited long enough for proper facilities.

"Despite the challenges, Irish-Medium education continues to grow and flourish, and we now need a plan put in place to sustain and to support that growth going forward.

"That means investing in accommodation, training enough specialist subject teachers and ensuring the voices of those involved in Irish-Medium education have their voices heard when decisions are being taken by the Department of Education and the Education Authority.

"The Minister and his department have a legal duty to encourage and facilitate Irish Medium Education, Sinn Féin will continue to hold the Minister and his officials to account in relation to that."

DUP Calls For Building Safety Act For NI

The DUP has called for new legislation in Northern Ireland to protect people such as the residents of the Victoria Square apartments in Belfast.

Making the call, MP Gavin Robinson said: "The Victoria Square apartments have been blighted by significant structural issues with residents told to vacate their properties and have been uninhabitable since April 2019 because of safety concerns.

"Because defects were not discovered until more than six years after the building has completed the owners are statute barred from securing redress from those responsible. Whilst this is the correct interpretation of the law as it stands, it is morally and practically unsustainable.

"Following the Grenfell tragedy, Parliament passed the Building Safety Act which extended this limitation period to 30 years, but that legislation has not been passed in Northern Ireland. There is an urgent need for the Assembly to replicate the provisions of that Act and backdate its provisions to the same time it came into force in England and Wales.

"I have met with the representatives of residents affected by this and I recognise the intrinsic unfairness they face. This is not some dry technical issue but is a real and tangible problem where the Assembly can act. There is the ability to deliver for people facing an incredibly bleak situation through no fault of their own."

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