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Donegal blocks campaigner expresses solidarity with Clare homeowners

THE founder of a Donegal action group on defective concrete blocks is urging homeowners in Clare to work together on a national campaign for better redress.

Paddy Diver from Carndonagh said an “all-Ireland movement” is needed to persuade the government to extend the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme to counties beyond Donegal and Mayo, and to increase the level of redress to 100%.

Mr Diver, who is part of a working group set up to examine the scheme, warned that the situation in Clare, where more than 50 homeowners have joined a local action group, may yet be as serious as that in Donegal where an estimated 5,000 homes are affected. While County Donegal homes are experiencing damage due to mica, its impact is similar to that caused by the pyrite that is present in Mayo, Clare and potentially several other counties.

“We really need to pull together on this,” Mr Diver told The Champion. “Whatever we get from government, it’ll be the same for homeowners everywhere. Ordinary citizens have been left to cope with a catastrophe and we need to join together across the country.”

Mr Diver outlined how he first became aware of issues in his own home six years ago. “I saw the cracks and put them to the back of my mind,” he said. “It’s only in recent years that I have faced up and realised that there is no cure and this is not going away. I’m now in a situation where my eight-year-old daughter is afraid to sleep in her own room at night. Some houses here aren’t fit to live in. We’ve been begging for people to be evacuated. That hasn’t happened and people are suffering huge mental strain and anxiety. My heart goes out to everyone in Clare who is affected because I know how it feels, but we need to stand up and make a noise and make sure that people are looked after because this is not our fault.”

Mr Diver said that to-date the negotiations, that resulted from a huge protest in Dublin in June calling for a raising of redress levels from 90 to 100%, have had limited success.

“Right now, the government aren’t backing calls for a fully public inquiry into how this situation came about,” he said. “They’re not supporting redress for those with second homes. They’re not supporting calls for a State guarantee for people who now cannot get home insurance.

“I’m in the fortunate position of being young, fit and healthy. If I have to contribute extra money to repair my home, I can do that. What about the old age pensioners who will not be able to do that? We have a duty to come together and stand up for them. That’s what Irish people do, we pull together.”

Mr Diver added that unless the response from government to the working group report is favourable, another protest will take place in the capital later this year. “If that report is ready by mid-September, the government will have two weeks to have answers,” he said. “Otherwise, we will be on the streets and looking to double the turnout we had at the Convention Centre in June. We’ll make sure it is an annoying protest too. We don’t want bother, but we’ll sit down on the streets if we have to. We will shame this government.”

Mr Diver, who has been in contact with The Clare Pyrite Action Group, urged people in this county to be ready to protest again. “We have to give 100% to get 100% redress,” he said. “The power of the people is bigger than the people in power.”

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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