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North Clare woman’s ‘living nightmare’ in crumbling home

A NORTH Clare woman has outlined how she is in “a living nightmare” after serious problems were discovered with the structure of her home, because of defective building materials – most likely pyrite and/or mica.

The woman, who spoke to The Clare Champion on condition of anonymity, said she has now found herself saddled with a large mortgage on a property she will be unable to sell in its current state.

“I lie awake at night and feel like I am listening to the house crack and creak,” she said. “My understanding is that there could be many others in Clare who have the same problem and I’m calling for us to come together to see what we can do.”

The house is a detached property and was bought by the woman in the late 2000s. “At the end of last year, I started to see horizontal cracks on the external gable and on the front facade of the house,” she explained. “At first, I was recommended to do some works on the drainage pipes. When one of the tradesmen came out, he tapped the area affected and the block just crumbled to dust. I then got my own engineer in August, who said, ‘That’s probably pyrite,’ and the nightmare began.”

The engineer’s report, seen by The Champion, found the house to be “significantly damaged”. Among the issues detected were cracks of up to 3mm in width in the front wall, as well as exposed and crumbling blockwork.

“The pattern, locations and nature of the cracks observed are consistent with cracks as a result of a deleterious material being present in the concrete blockwork,” the report said. It also noted that similar problems have been detected with other homes across the Midwest.

“Similar issues with blockwork have been observed in Co Donegal and Co Mayo,” the document added, “and these appear to be due to the presence of mica and/or pyrite in the blockwork.”

Pyrite and mica are naturally occurring substances in stone, but certain forms can cause severe structural defects in buildings if present in the blockwork in large quantities. In the mid-2000s, widespread problems with properties in the midlands and along the east coast, came to light. Significant lobbying by householders and intense media coverage, led to the setting up of the Pyrite Resolution Board. As of last year, a remediation scheme is open to home owners in the administrative areas of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Kildare, Meath, Offaly, South Dublin County Council and Dublin City Council. Last year, The Pyrite Resolution Board wrote to the then housing minister Eoghan Murphy, recommending that homes in Limerick City and County be made eligible for remediation funding. That process is ongoing.

Earlier this year, after a campaign that ran for almost a decade, a scheme was opened for home owners in Mayo and Donegal, affected by pyrite and mica.

At the moment, the home owner faces the prospect of paying for detailed laboratory tests to ascertain if the damage has been caused by mica and/or pyrite. The cost estimate given is in the region of €7,000 to €10,000, excluding VAT.

The issue of defective building material in Clare homes was raised in Dáil Éireann in 2018 by Deputy Joe Carey, who asked that properties here might be included in a remediation scheme. The Fine Gael TD said he has since contacted the CEO of Clare County Council, on the matter. “My understanding is the the CEO of the local authority must seek a designation saying the county is affected,” he said. “I would sympathise with the home owners and encourage them to come together because this would help highlight the prevalence of the problem.”

The Clare woman has been in touch with members of the Mica Action Group in Mayo and is now calling on affected home owners in this county to come together to highlight their situation and push to be included in existing remediation schemes. “I understand, from speaking to politicians, engineers and others in construction that this issue could be quite widespread in Clare,” she said. “People in other counties had a long fight on their hands, but it’s the only way we can secure the support we need.”

The contact email address for anyone affected is 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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