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Deputy Joe Carey

Carey raises CPAG Bill concerns in the Dáil

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FINE Gael TD, Joe Carey, has told the Dáil he believes the scale of the defective concrete blocks problem in this county may extend far beyond what has been documented to-date. 

Speaking during the second stage debate last Thursday (June 30) on the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged By the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022, he said he expects many more homeowners to come forward now that Clare is included in the revised grant scheme. 

“The Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) has identified 1,025 potentially impacted private homes, 17 private housing estates, five local authority housing estates and 11 large-scale public and private dwellings,” he said. “I strongly believe this is a conservative estimate and many more affected homeowners will come forward given that County Clare is now eligible for this scheme.”

Deputy Carey, who first raised the issue of defective blocks in Clare homes in 2018, said that while many aspects of the new grant were welcome, concerns remained. 

“The headline aspects of the new Bill are welcome,” he said, “and include the increase in the maximum grant available going from €275,000 up to €420,00 per dwelling; grant rates in keeping with the construction cost report prepared by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland; a Government guarantee regarding remediation works other than full demolition and rebuild, that is, options 2 to 5, through eligibility for a second grant, if required, for a period of 40 years; the introduction of an independent appeals process for applicants, with all key decisions under the scheme appealable by homeowners; alternative accommodation, storage costs and immediate repair works to a maximum value of €25,000; the Housing Agency playing a key role under the enhanced scheme by taking on the financial cost of testing and assessing homes and determining on behalf of the local authorities the appropriate remediation option and grant rate for each dwelling; the extension of the enhanced scheme beyond the current scope of the principal private residence only to cover rented dwellings registered with the Residential Tenancies Board, RTB; and exempted development status under the planning legislation for remediation works carried out under the defective concrete block scheme on a like-for-like basis.”

Deputy Carey reiterated concerns on the part of the CPAG about the lack of time members have had to input into the details of the forthcoming legislation. “Many of these matters were discussed by the working group, which was set up in June 2021 and includes affected householders from counties Donegal and Mayo,” the Clarecastle man noted. “This working group did not involve County Clare homeowners. While I acknowledge that the Clare Pyrite Action Group was given a briefing on the general scheme of the Bill by officials literally days after its publication, and got the opportunity last week to appear before the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage, that is the sum total of the group’s involvement in this scheme, which is really disappointing.”

Deputy Carey also outlined concerns over the damage threshold for eligibility for the new grant scheme. “The concern from a County Clare perspective is that the proposed visual inspection of a 1.5 mm crack may leave Clare homes behind,” he said. “I say this because access to core testing has enabled County Clare homeowners to make an undisputable case for inclusion in this scheme. The reality is that houses in County Clare might look visually fine, principally because homeowners have maintained the render on their homes. If a proper assessment were to take place as part of the assessment process, however, these houses will most certainly be found to be structurally unsound and dangerous. It is important that regulations that will accompany this Bill recognise this critical point and facilitate homeowners to have the right to appoint their own engineer who will work on their behalf and have access to results.”

Concerns were also raised by Clare’s Fine Gael TD about the calculation of grant payments rates. 

“In terms of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, I believe that any new reports commissioned for calculation of the rates must include County Clare in order that there is no delay in Clare homeowners entering the scheme and beginning the remediation process as soon as the scheme opens,” he said.

The appeals process too was flagged as a cause for concern. “With regard to the appeals process, the time limitations for this must be extended to at least 90 days to afford homeowners the opportunity to prepare any additional materials, as required, to prove their case,” Deputy Carey said. “They must also be allowed to submit additional materials rather than prohibiting them from doing so. This could, for example, be additional independent evaluations of the property or testing. Remediation options must be appropriate for the damage caused by pyrite attack, which also includes the issue of foundations. Essentially, householders cannot rebuild their homes without scientific testing and its assurance that their house foundations are sound. There is also the option with regard to downsizing, which I think needs serious consideration. We also need to pursue with vigour the quarries responsible for this scandal and hold them to account at every opportunity.

Deputy Carey was among a number of TDs who appealed for extra time to debate and amend the Bill. “I also believe additional time is clearly required for the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage and its members to consider fully this legislation and the amendments that will be put forward,” he said. “It is important that householders who, through no fault of their own, find themselves with crumbling homes can turn to a fit-for-purpose scheme that enables them to rebuild their homes and lives.”

ENDS

Fiona McGarry
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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 The University of 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.

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 The University of 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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