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Political answers sought to Clare ‘pyrite’ issues

POLITICAL answers are being sought on behalf of a number of Clare homeowners whose properties are affected by what they believe to be defective building materials like pyrite and mica.

The plight of Geraldine Kennedy of Parteen, which was highlighted in last week’s Clare Champion, prompted a visit from Deputy Cathal Crowe, who said he had been able to put his fingers into the cracks in the wall because they were so wide. Deputy Crowe has since tabled two questions to the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, on behalf of Geraldine and several other homeowners.

There are as many as 42 confirmed cases in Clare,” he said, “and many more suspected cases. My first question for the minister is to explain the options available to homeowners here. The existing schemes are very county-specific. We will need the buy in of Clare County Council on this, but I don’t foresee a major difficulty in that respect.”

Deputy Crowe said he is working with one couple who, like Dr Martina Cleary, the founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group, now face huge costs in order to proved the presence of defective material. “They have been quoted more than €6,000 just for tests,” he said. “That’s why I have asked the minister to extend the scheme and to cover the cost of testing. A movement is being pioneered in Clare that could benefit many, many people. This is a much bigger problem than we realised.”

Since setting up the action group, Dr Cleary has been contacted by a number of people across the county who are in similar situations. Householders have told The Champion of severe external cracks, bulging walls, as well as worsening dampness and mould inside their homes. They have also spoken about the mental and physical toll of living in defective houses, as well as the huge financial cost of both remedial works – much of which is only temporary in nature – and the assessments required to pinpoint the nature and extent of the defective materials.

The Pyrite Resolution Board supports homeowners in part of the midlands and east who have defective materials in subfloor hardcore; while a remediation scheme for defective blockwork only applies in Mayo and Donegal.

In response to a query from this newspaper, the council said that it has contacted the Department to discuss the likelihood of the extension of a scheme which opened earlier this year for those in Mayo and Donegal.

It is understood that in counties Mayo and Donegal, the local authorities are tasked with administering the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme,” a statement said. “Should it be established that homes within Clare are similarly affected, and should the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government extend the scheme to Clare, it is expected that Clare County Council’s role will also be to administer the grant.”

We are not aware if any properties in Clare are confirmed to have used defective concrete blocks during construction. Clare County Council has contacted the Department to discuss the likelihood of extending the scheme should cases be confirmed, and awaits a response.’

The Department of Housing has told the Champion that, “The Pyrite Resolution Board has submitted a proposal to the Department to include Limerick City and County Council area in the Pyrite Remediation Scheme. The Department is currently considering that proposal.”

In respect of the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme for Mayo and Donegal, a statement said, “There are no plans currently to extend it to other local authority areas.”

About Fiona McGarry

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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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