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Minister Darragh O'Brien met members of The Clare Pyrite Action Group at the home of Mary and Séamus Hanley in Drumline in August 2021.

Minister finally delivers for Clare, but concerns continue

NINE and a half months after a visit to Clare to see the damage caused by pyrite, Minister Darragh O’Brien announced this county’s inclusion in an updated grant scheme. 

To secure inclusion, exhaustive technical detail was provided by the Clare Pyrite Action Group (CPAG) and Clare County Council.

In addition to an original report submitted last July, further testing was required as well as scientific proof that was likened by experts to ‘finding a needle in a haystack’.

While the breakthrough has been welcomed, CPAG and many of Clare’s Oireachtas members are adamant that there is a way to go to secure a grant that is fit for purpose.

Specific concerns relate to eligibility criteria as well as the costs that the scheme will not cover. Members of the CPAG protested outside the Dáil over the terms of the General Scheme of the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill, 2022.

Minister O’Brien outlined the key features of the scheme as follows:

  • Provision for 100% grants subject to an overall maximum grant of €420,000 per dwelling
  • Grant rates in keeping with the construction cost report prepared by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland
  • A Government guarantee in regard to remediation works other than full demolition and rebuild (Options 2-5) through eligibility for a second grant if required for a period of 40 years
  • A revised application process which removes the financial barrier to scheme entry which will only require the homeowner to submit an initial Building Condition Assessmentat minimal cost recoupable on entry to the Scheme
  • The introduction of an independent appeals process for applicants with all key decisions under the scheme appealable by homeowners
  • Alternative accommodation and storage costs and immediate repair works to a maximum value of €25,000 within the overall grant cap
  • The Housing Agency playing a key role under the enhanced scheme by taking on the financial cost of testing and assessing homes and determining on behalf of the local authorities the appropriate remediation option and grant rate for each dwelling
  • The extension of the enhanced scheme beyond the current scope of Principle Private Residences only, to also cover rented dwellings registered with the RTB on or before the 1 November 2021
  • Inclusion of Clare and Limerick in the enhanced scheme upon commencement
  • Exempt development status under planning legislation for remediation works carried out under the defective concrete blocks grant scheme on a like for like basis

On his visit to Clare, the Minister confirmed that he had referred to the issue of pyrite in this county, in the Oireachtas, as far back as 2012. At that time, he was a member of the Seanad. At that time, he was speaking in support of a move to help homeowners by extending the statute of limitations on legal actions against those who had supplied or produced defective materials. 

Last Tuesday, the minister said: I have consistently said the State has a moral obligation to assist affected homeowners and that is what we are doing through this enhanced scheme.”

Demands for pre-legislative scrutiny of the new scheme continue to intensify. 

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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