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Founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group, Dr Martina Cleary.

Clare Pyrite activists fear decade of pain before resolution

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THE founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) has said she fears campaigners here could be forced into a ten-year battle for redress. 

Dr Martina Cleary voiced concern that Clare homeowners are being driven down the same route as those in Mayo and Donegal, who campaigned for a decade to get access to a State-sponsored grant scheme.

It follows a briefing from Clare County Council on Tuesday for members of CPAG and Oireachtas representatives. Officials outlined their ongoing efforts to respond to queries raised by the Department of Housing over a report seeking access to the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme.

While a rigorous process of core sampling on five private homes formed part of this report, it has now emerged that the Department’s queries will necessitate further investigations of these properties. 

Dr Cleary said the council expressed determination to meet the Department’s request for proof of a causal link between structural damage and the proven presence of pyrite.
However, she expressed concern about how feasible this is. “If you ask the expert engineers involved, they’ll say that doing this could leave a house looking like Swiss cheese,” she said.

“It would involve looking for something that’s 2mm in a house made of 6,000 blocks. What is being requested by the Department now goes far and above the original IS465 standard which is used to assess eligibility for the grant scheme. That’s simply outrageous.”

Dr Cleary also expressed the view that the revised grant scheme, which has yet to be finalised, raises the bar for eligibility.

“I don’t think people really understand yet what’s going to be involved for the counties like Mayo, Clare, Limerick and elsewhere,” she said.

“It’s one thing that the sliding scale of redress has been removed this week. What isn’t fully clear is that if the criteria for eligibility are changing.”

Deputy Joe Carey said any changes to the access criteria would be challenged.

“I met the Housing Minister this week and welcomed the removal of the sliding scale for redress, which was a huge bone of contention,” he told The Champion.

“It would appear that there is a different threshold now for access to the scheme and this is something that I am confident can be successfully challenged when it comes before the Dáil.”

Deputy Cathal Crowe also expressed concerns. “I believed that the council’s recent testing on its own properties was an addendum to the original report,” he said.

“It now appears that the private houses that were tested last year will have to be examined again. The threshold of investigation cannot be raised for Clare. We cannot stand for this politically. Redress has to be equal.”

Questions were raised by CPAG members about whether the rigorous process of core testing had been carried out on public buildings including St Patrick’s Comprehensive School in Shannon and another structure in Kilrush.

Earlier this month, Deputy Crowe issued a statement to say the school was found to be free of pyrite. Following the meeting, he told The Champion he will go back to the Education Minister.
“I hope there will be core sampling,” he said. 

Deputy Michael McNamara, who was also among those to attend the briefing, said: “We need to ensure those in Clare whose homes are affected by pyrite are treated no differently to those in other counties,” he said. “I’m concerned at the hurdles being placed in the way of the inclusion of Clare homes in the scheme.”

Dr Cleary also repeated her call for other affected homeowners to come forward. “We need an end to the hiding and to the denial,” she said.

“There are people covering up their properties when they should be speaking out. That’s the only way we will show the extent of the problem. People must come forward and speak up about this situation.”

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