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More homeowners count the cost of suspected pyrite defects

MORE than 40 homeowners in Clare are believed to be living in properties seriously damaged by defective materials like pyrite and mica, according to Deputy Cathal Crowe. Since the establishment last month of the Clare Pyrite Action Group, a number of people have come forward. Deputy Crowe, who has tabled a number of questions to the housing minister, is calling on others to do so.

Mary and Séamus Hanley live in a detached house near Shannon which was built in the late ‘80s. “We have the house painted every few years and noticed hairline cracks two or three years ago, which we didn’t really take much notice of,” said Mary. “A year ago, my son said, ‘There’s a huge crack along the end of the house’. That’s now going from top to bottom and things have really deteriorated since then.”

The couple engaged an engineer who judged their home to “significantly damaged”. “We had heard about pyrite in other parts of the county,” said Mary. “We had no idea that it could be in Clare. Our engineer said it’s quite prevalent in the Midwest and it appears that cavity wall insulation, while it’s not the cause of the problem, could be a catalyst if there’s defective material in the blocks.”

Like Dr Martina Cleary, who set up the action group last month, the Hanleys face the prospect of tests which could run to €10,000 to identify the exact nature of the deleterious materials in their home.

We are so annoyed and frustrated,” Mary said. “We have paid for everything, all our lives and have never gotten a penny for anything. We’re both retired now. None of this is our fault, we did everything in good faith. We feel that the politicians need to start addressing the situation. They have to stand up and look after the people of Clare the way that the politicians in Mayo and Donegal looked after the people there.”

Anthony O’Loughlin from Miltown Malbay build his home in the early 1990s. Around eight years ago, after cracks began to appear on external walls, he hired a consultant engineer to examine the house. “I had never heard of pyrite,” he said, “but by God, I found out all about it after that.” Mr O’Loughlin initiated legal proceedings in relation to the building materials, but the cost and the slow rate of progress forced him to abandon them after a number of years. “I just couldn’t afford to keep going down that route,” he said.

In the meantime, he re-plastered one of the external walls, but that work began to degenerate after a few years. “There’s dampness inside now and mould, there are places with holes in the blockwork which are getting wider. I just got sick of the fight and I moved out. None of this is my fault, why should I have to keep on paying?”

Mr O’Loughlin said the setting up of the action group had given him fresh hope. “If we can come together as a band of brothers, we’ll have a better chance. I know there are a lot more people out there who are in the same situation and they need to come forward.”

Pyrite and mica are naturally occurring substances, but certain forms can cause severe structural defects in buildings if present in large quantities. The Pyrite Remediation Scheme covers homeowners in some counties in the midlands and east, if pyrite is present in hardcore in floors. Earlier this year, the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme came on stream in Donegal and Mayo.

The Clare action group can be contacted at clarepyriteactiongroup@gmail.com.

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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