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Geraldine Kennedy from Parteen, a member of the Clare Pyrite/Mica Action Group. Photo: John Kelly.

Council getting to core of pyrite issue

TECHNICAL tests are to be carried out on a number of Clare homes to prove the presence of defective blocks and make the case for the extension of a redress scheme for those affected by pyrite or mica.

Following representations from the county council to the Department of Housing, a detailed report on the extent of the issue has been requested. Of the 40 householders who have joined a Pyrite/Mica Action Group, five will now have a detailed and costly core-sampling process carried out on their homes. The results will be used to develop a profile of the extent of the problem in Clare and to make the case for the extension of the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, which currently covers just Mayo and Donegal.

“This is a fairly invasive process,” said Senator Timmy Dooley who hosted a virtual meeting between the action group and staff of the council. “It will prove what we know to be the case. I’ve gotten an assurance from the minister that as soon as all of the relevant paper work and technical data has been compiled he will look at extending the scheme. It is a slow enough process because time will be needed for the sampling and analysis. Once the department has the data, it will take the next steps, which will be to extend the redress scheme to Clare.”

Last week, the Director of Services, Anne Haugh updated Clare’s Oireachtas members on progress to date.  The briefing note outlined terms and conditions associated with the core sampling and submission of results, as well as liability for costs which will be reimbursed by the State through Clare County Council.

“We are pleased to have gotten this issue into the system,” said Deputy Dooley. “Those leading the action group have taken a very professional approach and are doing a great job. We have regular Zoom meetings and they’re very understanding of the process. We are building a strong case to get the scheme extended. The sad fact is that, ultimately, some homes will have to be demolished. The nature of the works needed will vary considerably.”

Dr Martina Cleary of The Clare Pyrite/Mica Action Group told The Champion the group is satisfied with progress to-date. “We are very happy with the process that we are engaged in with Clare County Council,” she said, “and working with them to provide the details required for their report.”

Deputy Michael McNamara, who is among the Oireachtas members to raise the plight of Clare homeowners with government, also welcomed the development.

“If the government saw fit to fund a scheme like this in respect of Mayo and Donegal, which I welcome, I see no reason whatsoever my constituents and any other constituents in the country who suffer from exactly the same problem should not be treated in exactly the same way by the government,” he said. “It is a matter of basic equality. I welcome the department’s decision to request Clare County Council to put forward a case that could lead to the scheme being extended to Clare.”

A new Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme was unveiled last year by Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien. Currently, a €20m funding is being administered by Donegal and Mayo County Councils.

As currently constituted, the scheme offers five remedial options to affected homeowners. Separate grant limits apply to each option, ranging from €247,500 for the complete demolition and rebuild of the dwelling, to €49,500 for the demolition and rebuild of the outer leaf of affected walls only. The funding is subject to the option limits or 90% of the eligible works, whichever is the lesser.

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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