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Mary Hanley pointing out some of the damage at her and husband Seamus' home to Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien last August. Photograph by John Kelly

Anger at further pyrite test requirements for Clare access

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THE founder the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) has been sharply critical of the Department of Housing over ongoing delays in access to the financial support scheme. 

Further testing is currently being carried out “to satisfy the Department of the linkage between the deterioration of the blockwork and the confirmed presence of pyrite in the samples”, the Council has told The Champion. It follows queries raised by the Department in December, to which the authority responded shortly before Christmas. 

Dr Martina Cleary said the Department, which is still the considering the report seeking access to the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, is now asking the Council “to look for a needle in a haystack”. She also questioned why the authority did not test its own housing stock at the start of last year, in tandem with the testing of five private homes located across the county. 

The Crusheen woman said both the expert engineer and the testing laboratories engaged by the Council had reaffirmed their professional opinion that the material submitted to the Department last July meets the rigorous technical standards required under the terms of the grant scheme.

She said a representative of the laboratory had stated that the additional data being sought by the Department went above and beyond that required by the IS465 protocol.

“It’s very clear that the Department are changing the rules,” Dr Cleary said. “They’re asking for the tests for County Clare to go above and beyond the requirements [of the scheme].

In certain ways, this is quite absurd. It’s a Rumpelstiltskin task to find a needle in a haystack. They’re refusing to accept the definite evidence in front of them. They’re also trying to delay the process. They’re putting up absurd reasons for why Clare cannot be accepted, but very unclear details on what can be done to address this. That is being done to delay Clare’s access for as long as possible.” 

Dr Cleary added that there are also questions for the Council to answer.

“Why did they wait until the autumn to start core testing on their own holdings? The core testing of the homeowners’ properties began in February. Why was their core testing not being conducted concurrently? Why are they also delaying the process?”

Last July, at the request of the Department of Housing, Heritage and Local Government, the Council sent a report with expert technical data containing core samples from five private homes and highlighting the extent of the pyrite problem across the county.

Minister Darragh O’Brien visited Clare and met affected homeowners in late August, pledging a decision on the grant, in a matter of weeks. In early December, the Department responded to the Council with a seven-page letter containing a number of queries.

Among them was the question as to whether the cracking of the walls was caused by pyrite or whether they were “damaged either wholly or partially by another cause”. 

In a statement issued this week, the local authority confirmed that it has responded to the Department and that further testing is being undertaken at this time.  

“The Council submitted an interim response to the Department on the 22nd December 2021,” a spokesperson for the authority said.

“The response contained the technical response to issues raised in the correspondence and advised of further testing being undertaken to satisfy the Department of the linkage between the deterioration of the blockwork and the confirmed presence of pyrite in the samples. These tests are ongoing with results due by the end of February. Once these results are available a follow up response will issue to the Department.”

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