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The home of Mary and Séamus Hanley in Drumline which is severely affected by pyrite. Photo: John Kelly.

Call for concrete blocks inquiry following report

Clare Pyrite Group: Defective block providers and regulatory failures must be exposed

CALLS for a public inquiry into damage caused by defective concrete blocks have been backed by the founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group, following the completion of a position paper by affected homeowners in Donegal and Mayo.
Dr Martina Cleary said that while the priority is to ensure homeowners are fully financially supported to rebuild their properties, those who produced the defective materials and those who failed to regulate the sector must be pursued.
“There is a lot of concern about particular providers,” Dr Cleary said.
“A public inquiry absolutely has to happen, but that should be after compensation and redress are provided. Redress must come first, but these companies cannot be allowed to get off the hook.”
The call for a full public inquiry, as well as an apology to homeowners, is one of the recommendations of the position paper submitted last week to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and seen by The Champion.
The 22-page document was presented by Donegal members of a Working Group which was formed to review the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme after a massive protest in Dublin in June.
They were joined by counterparts from Mayo to present the report, despite serious concerns in the latter county about the department’s commitment to the Working Group.
Chief among the position paper’s recommendations is the call for the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme to be increased to cover 100% of costs.
The group is also seeking a number of other changes, including a 40-year guarantee to remediation works; a fast-track mechanism for cases where a family home has been condemned; and the inclusion in the scheme of community, commercial and farm buildings.
The report is also asking that homeowners be given assurances that blocks used to rebuild homes are fit for purpose.
A traceability system for concrete blocks has also been sought, as well as mental health supports and a centralised remediation service for homeowners who are not in a position to coordinate works themselves.
Concerns about certification protocols are also highlighted and clarity has been sought on building standards for remediation.
Calling for a public inquiry, the position paper said: “Living in a property which has been deemed to be of questionable structural integrity; coupled with water ingress, mould, and progressively deteriorating cracking, has put immeasurable pressure and stress on families.
“Those accountable for this crisis need to be identified and brought to justice.”
Speaking in the Dáil, the Tånaiste confirmed that the defective blocks issue has moved beyond Mayo and Donegal who are the only two counties currently covered by the grant scheme.
“The Department has also received requests from other counties to be included in the scheme,” Deputy Varadkar said.
“In those cases, the local authority has been charged with providing a list of defects being complained of, such as excessive mica or pyrite, and relate to the quantum. Counties include Sligo, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.
“It is fair to say this issue has broadened to beyond Donegal and Mayo and includes many other parts of the country. A submission from Clare County Council has been received. That arrived in the Department at the end of July and is being reviewed.”
The detailed report outlines the potential scale of the defective blocks issue in Clare and calls for the extension of the grant scheme to homeowners here, as well as 100% redress.
Minister Darragh O’Brien indicated on a visit to Clare at the end of August that a decision would be made “within weeks”.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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