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Howard seeks investigation into source of defective blocks

A PROBE into how defective blocks came to be used in Clare homes has been sought by a member of Clare County Council.
Councillor Mary Howard tabled a motion asking that the authority would call on the Housing Minister “to initiate an investigation into how inferior blocks containing mica and pyrite were used to construct homes”.
While there was strong support for her call, as well as an update to a motion tabled, on the matter, by Councillor Joe Cooney, concern was voiced about criticism of the council on the issue.
Councillor Pat Hayes said that while there was huge support for everyone affected by pyrite, unfair criticism of the council had to be addressed.
Outlining the reasons for her motion, Councillor Howard said she wished to show solidarity with everyone affected. “First of all, I want to send out a message of support to people who are watching their houses crumble,” she said. “The genesis of this is to find out who is responsible. There is the whole debate about the redress system and it’s terrible that Clare hasn’t been included yet.
“This is about where the checks and balances are for concrete and cement products. Who was responsible for standards?
“Who was responsible for allowing that product to leave a quarry or wherever it was manufactured, to go into someone’s home, so that 20 years later, their house is falling around them?
“We had a storm last week. I don’t like storms, but all I could think of that night was what it must be like to be living in a house that’s cracking because of mica and pyrite. It wasn’t about me, it was about them.
“Someone is responsible… and I want that investigation to happen and I want it to happen independently of the redress system, so that it’s not going to be used to delay everything.
“So far, it’s very disappointing the way the minster has behaved and that people are still waiting here in County Clare. That’s the genesis of this to find out who should be taking this on the nose, instead of everyone else.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Donna McGettigan who said that she too had been thinking of those affected by pyrite and mica.
“Something has to be done to hold someone accountable for this,” she said.
Councillor Pat Hayes said he too fully supported the motion. “It’s important we get clarity,” he said.
“While we are having our own argument at a local level, this issue needs to be dealt with at a national level, so that people with this hugely difficult issue can see a light ahead of them.”
The Fianna Fáil member said he wanted to clear up an issue.
“Clare County Council seemed to get an awful lot of criticism recently at a public meeting in relation to their handling of the pyrite issue,” he said.
“From my information, the council have acted totally honorably in the way they have been dealing with The Clare Pyrite Action Group.
“I think there’s a bit of misinformation out there.
“As a local councillor I wasn’t invited to the last meeting. Several people contacted me to say I wasn’t at the meeting. We didn’t actually get an invite as councillors.”
Through the chair, he then called on the CEO to comment.
Responding, Mr Dowling said he believed there had been significant criticism of the council.
“That being said, I think we can often be the target of people’s concerns and frustrations,” he said.
“We’re the political executive body closest to people on the ground. I think we’re well able to deal and cope with that on an ongoing basis.
“That being said, I think Councillor Hayes’ point is correct. We’re supporting those that are affected. We’re trying to deal with the Department to ensure that they get all the information they require.
“It is a Government issue to respond and deal with the redress scheme. We’ll do everything we can to help and can I show fully empathy with those that are impacted.
“We’re trying our very best on an ongoing basis. We only had a meeting today to advance our response to the Department with a view to getting the full details that they require as they go through the statutory legislative process in the New Year. We’ll play our part.”
The CEO thanked Councillor Hayes for his remarks.
“This isn’t about a blame game, but people can often vent their frustration at people like me and people like you and that’s okay,” he said.
“They need to vent somewhere. I think we need to be as empathetic and supportive in any way we can.”
Councillor Howard thanked fellow councillors for their support.
“We know these people,” she said. “Nobody’s ducking or diving. It’s important that we all stand together and get a resolution very quickly.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Joe Cooney sought an update on the council’s application to access the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme.
The query came following a letter issued by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on December 6 questioning aspects of a consultant’s report submitted by the council last July.
“People are very concerned and they’re worried,” he said. “As councillors, we want to do all we can to support them and we need to know what’s going on.”
A detailed response to the Fine Gael member’s query outlined the council’s engagement with the Clare Pyrite Action Group since September 2020 as well as its contacts with the Department.
Following the Department’s queries, the written statement outlined that: “The Council has now re-engaged with the consultant engineer with a view to formulating a detailed response to the correspondence and to address the issues raised by the Deptartment.
“A timeline for response is currently awaited and this will be conveyed to the members and the Clare Pyrite Action Group as soon as it is ascertained.”
Updating members at the council meeting last Monday, Mr Dowling said that he and his officials had met earlier that day with the consultant engineer and that a response would go to the Department before Christmas.

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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