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Leading developer wants the government to revisit its decision to shut down house building

One of the country’s leading developers wants the government to revisit its decision to shut down house building and said his employees were warned they would be sacked on the spot if they didn't adhere to social distancing.

Michael O’Flynn, managing director of O’Flynn Construction, said he realises that not all construction sites can adhere to HSE guidelines on Covid-19, but many would be able to adapt.

He said that while he appreciates the seriousness of the issue, he pointed out that some factories which were not involved in manufacturing emergency medical supplies were still working flat out.

“We have a huge deficit in housing and that has to be addressed,” he said. "Housing is a critically important thing for this country. 

"Firms like ours were taking huge steps to ensure proper social distancing. If properly policed it would work. 

"If we had anybody in breach of it they knew they would have been subject to instant dismissal,” Mr O’’Flynn said.

His company had to lay-off around 500 people who were either directly employed or subcontracting at 10 construction sites around the country.

“We were in the process of delivering around 200 houses in the Cork and Dublin areas, some of which were close to completion,” he said.

Unfortunately we can't build houses from home.

The developer said he didn’t think the government should have closed down all construction sites, especially if it could be proved that workers could continue building while properly adhering to the HSE guidelines.

“I firmly believe that firms not dealing with the guidelines should have been stopped, but I don’t think it was necessary to close down the entire construction industry,” Mr O’’Flynn said.

“If it (construction work) is properly policed it will work. We had people policing each other. We found a way of doing our work with proper physical distancing,” he said.

He said the government needs to reappraise the situation, especially as he expects the construction industry lockdown to last longer than the two weeks period initially envisaged.