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'persuaded' Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart defends decision to support neighbour's home extension works during lockdown  

A Rathfarnham couple who had begun to extend their house before Level 5 restrictions approached the Dublin South West TD seeking a letter of support so they could weatherproof their property by having windows installed.

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Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart wrote a letter in support of building works being carried out at a house during Level 5 lockdown. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart wrote a letter in support of building works being carried out at a house during Level 5 lockdown. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart wrote a letter in support of building works being carried out at a house during Level 5 lockdown. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart has defended his decision to write a letter in support of building works being carried out at a house during Level 5 lockdown.  

A Rathfarnham couple who had begun to extend their house before Level 5 restrictions approached the Dublin South West TD seeking a letter of support so they could weatherproof their property by having windows installed.

The next-door neighbour became concerned when the builders turned up and continued work.

He contacted Gardaí who told him the work was essential and they had a letter from a local representative to support it.

On Wednesday, Independent.ie contacted Mr Lahart and An Garda Síochána about the letter.

Within hours Gardaí told the house owners to inform the builders to cease the work after it was deemed non-essential. No penalty was issued.

This morning, Deputy Lahart told Pat Kenny on Newstalk that when he first read the letter he was “very taken and persuaded by it."

“The back of the house is completely exposed,” Deputy Lahart explained.

“The family had to move out of the house as many families have to do during construction work.

“And obviously that period of being out of the house while it is extended necessitates increased and additional rental costs. Lots of people are experiencing this.

“(There was) a big hole I was told in the back of the house that could be sorted by the delivery and installation of glazing.

"And that, having teased out the level 5 construction restrictions, seemed to me to qualify.

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“So, I wrote a letter basically saying, look you know, as I understand it and as it has been presented to me, this seems to be an essential case.

"And the resident in question got the letter stamped by the gardai.

“What I didn’t appreciate was that there were lead in times for the installation of the glazing in question.

"And the other side is that if the house was in a green field with nobody around that would be one thing or if it was taking place in non-Covid times, it would be perfectly reasonable, everyone puts up with disruption.

“But what I hadn’t factored in, in fairness, was that people have to work from home or are working remotely so they are there all day.

“They have children who they are home schooling, and those children too are trying to learn online and so this caused a huge amount of disruption.

“I think the point on which the issue swung was that the lead in time and the preparatory work that had to be done in order to prepare for the windows to be installed was going to take considerably longer than I had envisaged in the first case.”

In the letter, dated February 3, Mr Lahart said the family were left with the back of their house exposed and windowless, and that once windows were installed the work would cease until lockdown was lifted.

He said the house owners would have to seek alternative accommodation if the work to weatherproof the house was not carried out.

“This appears to be essential work as described under Level 5 Government restrictions relating to construction,” the letter said.

But the neighbour who made a complaint to Gardaí claimed the family moved out of the house at the beginning of the building project and have not lived in it for a period of months.

“I don’t know what John Lahart’s engineering qualifications are, or how he can arrive at an opinion whether work is essential or not, and I don’t know why Gardaí would take his word for what work was being done when it was plain to see the builders were just carrying on with the extension,” the neighbour said.

“My family have been abiding by the rules, as have most people, and I just thought it was wrong that I couldn’t let my children into our own back garden because this work was going on right beside us and the builders were so close to us without masks. We asked them several times to wear masks,” the neighbour said.

“There were no windows going in. The work was not as described to us. They were continuing with the extension. It was not essential work.”

The house owner, Karol Hogan, said the work recommenced on his house last Thursday after he had got the go-ahead from Rathfarnham Garda station.

“The window company can only deliver and install on one day so I had to carry out work to prepare for that, and that is the work that was being done in order to weatherproof the back of my house,” he said.

“I don’t understand the problem. I’m just trying to protect our home. We are following all the guidelines and had got permission from the Gardaí.

"I only found out on Wednesday that work had to stop and I’ll be contacting the Garda Superintendent to find out where the difficulty lies.”

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