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Councillor Ian Lynch. Photograph by John Kelly.

Councillor appeals to TDs to fight for changes Blocks Bill

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A PLEA has been issued to Clare TDs to fight for far-reaching changes to the Bill underpinning the revised grant scheme for homeowners with defective concrete blocks. 

Councillor Ian Lynch has written to each of Clare’s Dáil representatives, ahead of a debate on Wednesday, where just two hours was set aside for discussion of 80 amendments. While the grant scheme will now be extended to Clare and Limerick, major concerns have been raised about the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022.

In a series of letters, seen by The Champion, Councillor Lynch said he fully supports the 80 amendments, which have been proposed jointly by the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) and campaigners in Donegal and Mayo.

He appealed to the TDs to use their influence to improve the Bill and he condemned the “physical, mental and financial hardship” that will result if the new grant scheme is not fit-for-purpose.  

Asking TDs to ensure that at least six to nine hours be allowed for discussion of the amendments, Councillor Lynch said: “As a citizen of this county, I am pleading with you not to approve this Bill without the proposed amendments being included. To do so will establish a poor foundation for the subsequent regulations and grant scheme.

“It is imperative that all public representatives support a grant scheme that is right this timenot just in the development of the Bill but also the future development of regulations.

“Now is the time we must campaign the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Department of Finance to ensure the department and the local authority are adequately financed and resourced to provide effective and timely  administration of the scheme.”

He warned that without the amendments, the scheme “will inevitably fail causing physical, mental and financial hardship on each and every constituent in Clare that is impacted by defective materials”.

In respect of the details of the amendments to the Bill, Councillor Lynch said that they were the only way to ensure the scheme works.

“The scheme must provide 100% redress not a notion of 100%, homeowners must not be out of pocket for something that they are no way responsible for,” Councillor Lynch wrote. He also agreed that the grant rate must take account of construction costs in Clare and he called for the option for homeowners to downsize if they wish to. 

“The scheme must include the whole houseand not part houseas the current scheme proposes by way of excluding foundation,” the Independent councillor continued.

“The current redress scheme must be provided based on proven science and not by a subjective opinion of those within the department of housing. There are significant differences between mica and pyrite damage to blocks. The damage threshold, while intended to priorities the worst effected properties, must be amended to ensure pyrite households are not excluded based on a misinformed visual inspection.”

The Kilrush man noted that: “Current demands on industry professionals and services to support defective block identification have, to date, identified extreme and unmanageable pressures resulting in lengthy delays obtaining test results and subsequent reports. The appeals process must be extended to a minimum of 90 days to provide homeowners sufficient time to lodge an appeal.”

Separately, Councillor Lynch called for clarity, before the Oireachtas summer recess, on valuations for properties with pyrite.

“It is absolutely imperative that the government must provide clear guidance to valuers and financial institutions that the State-backed redress scheme guarantees a solution that retains the current market value at time of valuation in line with similar properties where pyrite has not been identified,” he said.

“A failure to achieve this is a clear failure of the scheme and will not provide 100% redress. I am also calling on government, before the summer recess, to ensure that clear direction is issued to financial institutions to enable homeowners access lower interest fixed rate mortgages and not to be further financially burdened. This must be completed in tandem with government instruction to insures not to eliminate pyrite properties from the ability to insure their homes.”

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 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.

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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