The Taoiseach has urged those involved in the construction industry to focus on preparing for Brexit.

Addressing the annual conference of the Construction Industry Federation which is taking place online this year, Micheál Martin said change and challenges are coming regardless of the outcome of the negotiations on a trade deal between the UK and EU. 

"The end of the transition period in less than three months time will bring substantial challenges and change for supply chains and trade flows with new checks and controls required to trade with and through Great Britain," the Taoiseach said today.

"To be clear, this will happen regardless of the outcome of the European Union and United Kingdom's future relationship negotiations, as from January 1, the UK will be outside the single market and customs union," he added. 

Mr Martin said the Government is very aware of the impact the changes will have on businesses including those in the construction sector, but said the Government is taking action. 

He said significant progress has been made in putting in place the necessary infrastructure at ports and airports to minimise disruption.  

"We need businesses to make sure they now undertake the same level of preparations to be ready," he told delegates watching online. 

"I want to take the opportunity of this conference to urge you all to take that message back and amplify it to your company, your customers, your associations and your organisations to ensure that come January 1 you as a sector, we as a nation, are ready for Brexit." 

The Taoiseach also asked those watching to redouble their efforts to implement Covid-19 protocols across the construction sector. 

Mr Martin said that everyone must remain vigilant and avoid any complacency that may creep in. 

"We've come a long way and many construction sites are operating again while adhering to adapted health and safety practices," he said.  

"But the country is still operating in exceptionally challenging times," he stated. 

Mr Martin said a robust construction sector is fundamental to getting the country back on track.

"Given the present economic uncertainty in preparing Budget 2021 we will assume that the economy and broader society will have to co-exist with the virus next year," he said. 

"We will establish a Recovery Fund as envisaged in the Programme for Government and we will publish a National Economic Plan in November which will set out our longer term priorities and objectives to move us towards a resilient balanced sustainable economy," the Taoiseach said. 

He also pointed to the need to reduce the sector's environmental impact. 

The Government will publish a National Retrofit Plan to improve the BER ratings on half a million homes by 2030, he said. 

"To support delivery of these commitments we will establish a designated national Retrofitting Delivery Board," he said. 

"Resources from the national recovery fund will be utilised to immediately finance local authority retrofitting programmes and to offer grants to owners of private properties," he added. 

There will also be a new retrofit skills training initiative to support the national plan.

This project will begin in the midlands and counties most effected by the country's move to a low carbon future, he said.

"We expect the National Retrofitting Plan to lead to a ten fold increase in the size of the existing retrofitting industry, providing opportunities for SMEs while instilling confidence for the establishment of supply chains, training and investment," Mr Martin stated.

The Taoiseach also said the Government is committed to ensuring the continued availability of finance for residential development throughout Covid-19.

He said housing remains a priority for the Government and it is working hard to ensure new houses are delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible.  

The Government is also committed to increasing investment in the area of social housing, he claimed.

"We acknowledge the significant challenges posed by Covid-19. But we are undertaking to maintain delivery and I am determined that we will see more progress being achieved in this area in 2021 and beyond," he told delegates. 

The Minister for Housing would outline detailed new plans on affordable housing in the coming weeks, he said, taking account of the progress already made and the evolving situation. 

The Government is also developing a cost rental model for the delivery of improved affordability for tenants, he stated.