Belfast Telegraph

Time Stormont was shored up by new tenants

By Lindy McDowell

The current crisis at the Assembly comes after allegations about the relationship between the DUP and Red Sky, the firm which lost its contract with the Housing Executive amid claims of overcharging and substandard work.

Sadly it falls to this column this week, to reveal another, even more shocking case of shoddy maintenance on another major project paid for out of the public purse.

The job in question was a revamp of a big house in the Stormont area.

The ABC building firm (Ahern, Blair and Clinton & Co) began construction work on the project back in the late '90s (when the contract, or Agreement, was initially signed.)

The structures they put in place at that time they insisted, were rock solid and were guaranteed to last many generations.

Managing director T Blair even claimed the completed work had achieved the gold seal for excellence in building work.

The Hand of History he said, was upon it.

The job on the Big House was held up as a template for other similar projects in the international construction business.

In recent years, however, alarming cracks have become apparent in the edifice.

There is concrete evidence that support is eroding. That the very foundations themselves may not be secure.

Following the Big House revamp, the tenants had given an assurance that they were up to carrying out the maintenance work themselves. Despite repeated promises, however, of open doors and windows into the Stormont interior, local people have increasingly been forced to complain about a distinct lack of transparency.

Not enough light, they say, is being shed on the interior of the Big House while outdoors, even attempts at landscaping have presented a headache.

Plans to sort a nearby Maze have led to friction between Big House residents about how best to proceed.

Overall there are concerns about obvious attempts to paper over cracks and a tendency to try to put a gloss on long-standing problem areas where significant re-structuring work is required.

Parts of the edifice which patently need to be shored up are being neglected while the tenants bicker about leaks.

Disputes between Big House inmates about how to deal with overdue projects have led to these being put on the even longer finger.

Local residents are now extremely concerned that the current Stormont tenants may not after all, be up to the job of servicing the maintenance contract themselves.

The main chamber it has been pointed out, has become cluttered of late with blocking motions and petitions of concern.

What's more the tenants appear entirely oblivious to how bad their Big House now looks from the outside.

Some local residents even say the Big House has become such a mess they would like to see the majority of the current tenants booted out and new people brought in.

Oddly the bickering tenants do not seem unduly concerned that they could be served with eviction notices should they fail to shape up and get their Big House in order.

They seem totally unaware that their reluctance to let a bit of light in could (for some of them anyway) mean curtains.

The hard fact is that the whole structure looks increasingly shabby and shaky.

Red or otherwise, the worry has to be, that the sky may be falling in on Stormont.

Belfast Telegraph


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