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Dr Martina Cleary, founder the Clare Pyrite Action Group with other members at a protest in Ennis last June. Pic Arthur Ellis.

Call for unity in redress pursuit

THE first in-person meeting of the Clare Pyrite Action Group heard a heart-felt call for members to tell their stories publicly, and to prepare to support each other in the campaign for redress.
Dr Martina Cleary, who founded the group over a year ago, addressed up to 80 people gathered at Treacy’s West County Hotel last Friday night (October 8) to ask questions of Clare’s Oireachtas members and other public representatives.
She told the meeting that those whose homes have defective concrete blocks must be prepared “to take whatever measures are needed” to secure access to a grant scheme, and she urged those affected to join the campaign.
The meeting was attended by Clare’s three senators and four of its five TDs, with apologies being sent by Deputy Michael McNamara.
Councillors Joe Cooney, Ann Norton and Shane Talty were also present.
At the outset, Dr Cleary told politicians that she was hoping for positive news on when Clare would secure access to the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme, currently only open to Mayo and Donegal.
She noted that it was six weeks to the day that Minister Darragh O’Brien had visited Mary and Seamus Hanley’s badly cracked home in Drumline and promised a decision within weeks.
“Six weeks might seem like a very short time,” she said, “but actually we as a group are waiting 14 months, because Clare Pyrite Action Group was set up last September. Deputy Joe Carey has been waiting three years.
“It was 2018 when he brought it up, that there was pyrite in County Clare. Actually, it’s 13 years ago that the minister himself said, when he was a TD, and campaigning for his own constituency, that there’s pyrite in County Clare.
“So why are we still waiting for 13 years for them to actually say what they already know, and give us a grant?”
The Crusheen resident referred to the protest that took place in Dublin on Friday by campaigners looking to improve the existing grant scheme and to raise it from 90 to 100% redress.
“Many of you will be saying, ‘So how about 100% redress?’,” she acknowledged.
“It’s a lovely slogan. It’s up on the streets of Dublin today. Actually, we have 100% of nothing at the moment, so just be realistic about that. There’s no point in us talking about 100% redress when we don’t have a scheme of redress.”
Dr Cleary also explained the Clare action group’s decision not to join the national demonstration. She reiterated the view that the county had been deliberately excluded from the Working Group set up, in the wake of the event, to examine the existing grant scheme.
“People might also be asking why we weren’t on the streets of Dublin today,” she noted.
“We were there on June 15. A bunch of us worked extremely hard to get a delegation to Dublin and to get some of our representatives out to support us while we were going up to Dublin, even to the extent that one of our members actually broke her leg in three places due to the stress of getting all of that together at very short notice.
“We took that extremely seriously and we had to reflect afterwards on what exactly we got out of it, other than some lovely pictures for social media.
“The reality of it was that, even though several of these people here campaigned for Clare to have a seat on the Working Group, they were told, ‘No’.
“We were denied access to that very important negotiation process, where the terms of the current redress scheme were being negotiated.”
Dr Clearly explained that she had received a copy of the Working Group report from a Clare TD.
“I went through it and in 30 pages, the word ‘Clare’ is mentioned once,” she said.
“That’s how we were represented in that. The only thing that was good about that report for us is an appendix from Engineers Ireland.
“Engineers Ireland speak up for County Clare and say that they have, through their engineers on the ground, for several years, seen the same problem as Mayo and Donegal and they say that the grant should be extended now. So, Engineers Ireland have been our strongest advocates so far.”
On the extent of the pyrite issue in Clare, Dr Cleary said people must come forward and be counted if the full picture is to be revealed.
“We have about 100 people who have contacted the group,” she said.
“There’s two council estates we’re aware of, of 50+ houses. There’s two major buildings and I know from speaking to these people here [the Oireachtas members] that people are contacting them as well on a private basis.
“They’re saying, ‘I don’t want to be part of an action group, I don’t want my story to be known’. That’s not going to do us any good. You’ve been watching the news today. There are thousands of people in Donegal who have taken the time to go out and protest.
“If anybody’s going to get anything, it’ll be Donegal, because they’re out on the street. It has taken them ten years and you can see the struggle they’re going through.
“So, I’m saying to all of you, if you know people who are impacted, they have to come in, they have to be counted. They have to get on board with this campaign.”
In relation to the potential time-frame for a decision on Clare’s access to the grant scheme, Dr Cleary cautioned that members must be prepared for all eventualities.
“I’m really hoping that some of these [Oireachtas members] are going to give us good news and tell us it’s only going to be a few weeks or a couple of months before we have [the grant] and we don’t have to go through the hell that those people have had to go through,” she said.
“If it’s not, ye need to be prepared for that too, to take whatever measures are needed. There’s going to be a legal campaign going forward from Donegal as well and a thing going to the European Parliament.
“We need ye to step up now, every single one of ye, because it’s your houses, our houses. Nobody’s going to help us except ourselves.”

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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