THE founder of the Clare Pyrite Action Group has warned of the serious mental and physical impact of any delays in extending redress to homeowners in this county.
Dr Martina Cleary welcomed the news week that, last Friday, the local authority made a detailed submission to the Department of Housing asking that The Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, which is currently only open to Mayo and Donegal, be extended to Clare. She cautioned, however, that any delay on the part of the government would have a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of those living in defective homes.
“The minister now has everything he needs to make the decision to extend the scheme,” Dr Cleary said. “He has the proof that the problem is the same as in County Mayo. There is no reason now to delay. The longer we’re left out of the redress scheme, the more our homes are going to deteriorate. What’s worse is that people are going to be mentally and physically ill if the current situation continues much longer. A home is someone’s stability. This isn’t just about counting the cost of bricks and mortar. It’s about peoples’ physical and mental health.”
In a statement to The Champion, Clare County Council outlined the contents of its submission to the Department, adding that it is “hopeful of a positive response”. The report contains test results from five properties confirming the presence of pyrite. It is understood that these homes are in locations across Clare and were built between 1981 and 2007.
The council said it has submitted a map showing both confirmed and potential cases.
The authority has also asked the Department “to review elements of the current scheme (such as the current limit of remediation costs at 90% plus consideration of other current unfunded costs such as alternative accommodation, demolition and planning)”.
Chair of Clare Pyrite Action Group @MartinaCleary2 speaks about the #Pyrite situation affecting homes in Clare & the importance of Clares inclusion in the Redress Scheme. We need all elected representatives in the county to support us! #100PercentRedresshttps://t.co/1qjY2arF7Z
— Clare Pyrite Action (@ClarePyrite) July 27, 2021
It has requested the extension of the Local Property Tax (LPT) for affected properties in Clare and asked for “funding of resources for Clare County Council to administer the scheme as it is recognised that that scheme cannot be administered within existing resources”.
Responding to news of the council’s submission, Deputy Cathal Crowe commended all those involved. “A huge volume of work has gone into getting us to this point,” he said. “It’s important to acknowledge Dr Martina Cleary and the Clare Pyrite Group and also Clare County Council who have led the formulating of this application. A lot of work on a cross party basis has also gone into getting us to this point.”
The Fianna Fáil member gave an assurance that Minister O’Brien will meet Clare homeowners and that he himself will continue to push for 100% redress for them.
Deputy Joe Carey said he has visited some of the affected homes, including those whose core samples have gone to the Department. He described pyrite as “a mounting issue” in Clare. “It’s essential in my view that the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage moves swiftly to accept Clare into this scheme,” he said. “The scheme itself needs to be radically overhauled and 100% redress made available.”
Fine Gael members in Clare have met with Junior Minister Peter Burke, who has responsibility for Local Government and Planning, and briefed him on the pyrite problem here. “This is a huge issue and catastrophic for those involved,” said Councillor Joe Garrihy. “The action group deserves great credit. There’s no reason now to believe that Clare won’t be included in the redress scheme. Chief Executive Pat Dowling and Housing Director Anne Haugh have really driven this issue forward.”
Deputy Michael McNamara expressed the hope that the submission to government will result in a fully-funded Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme being extended to Clare.
“If the government saw fit to fund a scheme like this in respect of Mayo and Donegal, I see no reason whatsoever why Clare constituents and any other householders in the country who suffer from the same problem should not be treated in exactly the same way by the government,” he said. “It is a matter of basic equality. It is critical however, that any future scheme be 100% fully funded.” Deputy McNamara also urged government to offer an LPT exemption to affected Clare homeowners.
Membership of the Clare Pyrite Action Group has been increasingly steadily since it was formed last September. To-date, 63 homeowners have joined. Clare County Council has previously confirmed to The Champion that it is having tests conducted on a small number of local authority homes. It said that while securing results would take up to three months due to pressure on laboratories, that process would not delay its report to government.
As currently constituted, the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme offers redress to a maximum of 90%. After a massive demonstration in Dublin calling for an increase in redress to cover 100% of costs, a working group is continuing to review the scheme.