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“I would say to everyone in County Clare, please, please stand up and be counted': Linda O'Callaghan, Cooraclare, pictured with Stephen Heath at the pyrite protest in Ennis. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

Government are ‘slighting county Clare’ says protestor

EMOTIONS ran high among those gathered at The Height in Ennis on Saturday for a rally to highlight the problem of pyrite in homes across the county.

One West Clare homeowner urged everyone to stand up to the discrimination this county faces as it continues to be excluded from the State-backed redress scheme.

Addressing the 200-strong gathering Linda O’Callaghan, who lives in Cooraclare, spoke of her anger and frustration. Her home has had extensive testing to prove the presence of defective material in the blocks, after she noticed severe cracks emerging some years ago.

“Every single person living in County Clare should be livid with anger,” she said.

“This Government is riding roughshod over the people of County Clare. This Government is discriminating against the people of County Clare and all the residents of County Clare, not just those with pyrite in their houses.

“My house has pyrite. My house has cracks. My house has been assessed by an IS465-qualified engineer. There is a grant scheme available in this country to people with defective concrete blocks. They can apply to it. These people can get Government funding to repair and, in some cases, rebuild their houses. I can’t. Nobody in County Clare can.

“We are being discriminated against purely on the grounds of geography. If my house was in Mayo, I could apply. If my house was in Donegal, I could apply. If my house was in Dublin, I could apply to a scheme. My house isn’t. My house is in County Clare.

“The Government aren’t slighting me, they are slighting County Clare. That is why every resident of County Clare should be furious.”

Ms O’Callaghan compared the plight of those affected by pyrite to that faced by people denied access to medical treatment because of where they live.

“If you had an illness for which there is a cure, but it was not available to you if you live in County Clare, only if you are a resident of Donegal or Mayo, there would be uproar,” she said.

“Quite rightly so. Do we pay tax in County Clare? Yes. Do we pay USC in County Clare? Yes. Do we pay Property Tax in County Clare? Yes. So, why the discrimination? Why the exclusion?

“Why are the Government now looking for more proof from Clare County Council that it’s pyrite that’s causing the damage and not something else?

“Five houses from County Clare – across this county – have had a chemical analysis of their blocks carried out. They have pyrite, amongst other deleterious materials.

“Two houses, side-by-side, built at the same time – mine and my neighbours. My house has cracks all over. My neighbour’s doesn’t. My house has pyrite. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it doesn’t take a genius to join those dots up.”

There was a spontaneous round of applause for Ms O’Callaghan as she said: “I would say to everyone in County Clare, please, please stand up and be counted.

“It’s not easy to stand up here. I am literally shaking like a leaf, but it has to be done and it has to be said, and the more people that come out and make themselves know to the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) and the more people whose houses go onto the map, the more chance we all stand of having some success in this.”

Thanking Ms O’Callahgan from her courage in addressing the rally, Mary Hanley, vice chair of the CPAG urged others to come forward.

“Get your house on the map,” she said. “Martina [Cleary] and myself have done quite a lot of research. We have houses all over County Clare. We do appreciate you coming here today, but what I would like you all to do is to talk to your neighbours, talk to your relations, talk to your friends, because you know and I know and they know…

“Obviously, some of them are afraid, they’re nervous, they’re embarrassed. I was too. I was very embarrassed when my house was cracking.

“I thought, ‘What are people going to say?’ But then, I discovered there was somebody else in County Clare who had the same problem.

“Then, I got in touch with Martina and thank God, we have a large number of people now involved with CPAG, but we need more people to come forward.”

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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