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Members of the Clare Pyrite Action Group among the thousands of homeowners who protested at the Convention Centre in Dublin on Wednesday (June 15, 2021).

Protesters hit national gathering as Clare’s pyrite problem continues to worsen

AS THOUSANDS of people gathered in Dublin on Tuesday (June 15) to demand full redress for to repair homes with defective concrete blocks, it has emerged that one public building in Clare, as well as a number of council houses could be affected.
Members of the Clare Pyrite-Mica Action Group were among the thousands who thronged the area around the Convention Centre, where the Dáil has been sitting, before marching to Leinster House to hand in a letter calling on Minister Darragh O’Brien to extend the existing redress scheme to and to cover to 100% of costs. Currently, the scheme only covers Donegal and Mayo and will only cover 90% of costs.
A homeowner from Newmarket-on-Fergus said he believes that the scale of the problem in Clare could be huge. “My home is getting worse week-by-week,” he said.
“A qualified engineer has seen it and said it’s grade four pyrite.We were filling and painting for a while, but it’s gone beyond now and there’s more like us. Clare should be included in the scheme and it should be countrywide. This is going to grow and grow and be a major scandal in this country.”
Another homeowner, who travelled from the Kilshen area, and carried a placard with a picture of severe cracks to his home, also urged the government to extend the scheme.
“I built my home 20 years ago. The cracks are so bad that we’re afraid getting into bed every night. We’ll be in Dublin every week if we have to, to get redress. We’ll block the M50 if it comes to that,” he said.
A woman from Quin said she believes that cracks in the extension to her house have been caused by pyrite.
“It’s cracking from wall to ceiling,” she said. “I live on my own and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
To-date five homes in Clare have tested positive for pyrite, after an investigation conducted by the county council. While the Clare action group has around 50 members, Deputy Michael McNamara said the council has confirmed it is looking at two local-authority estates.
“Clare County Council has informed me that in the course of surveying the five private properties it has identified that two local authority-built estates may be affected,” he said. 
Deputy Cathal Crowe said he believes the number of Clare homes affected could run into the hundreds.
“There could be anything up to 400 that are, so far, undocumented,” he told The Champion.
“Minister Darragh O’Brien wants to meet the group in Clare when the application [to get into the scheme] is submitted. The government will be stepping in and the support needs to be 100% redress.
“There is also a major public building in the county, that I’ve been to see. I was able to put my hand between the concrete blocks. That’s being investigated, I can’t say which building it is at the moment. The stress levels relating to that are far lower, because it’s not an abode, but the remediation there will be colossal, if it’s required.”
Deputy Joe Carey also attended Wednesday’s protest. “This is an issue that affects families and family homes,” he said.
“I’ve been dealing with this issue across Clare for a long time. We’re trying to get Clare into the scheme and progress has been made. Thankfully Clare County Council have gotten on board. There now has to be a 100% redress scheme to resolve the problems people are encountering.”
Senator Timmy Dooley, who has been working with the action group since it was formed almost a year ago, urged others who believe their homes may be affected to come forward.
“I can understand that people might not want to think about this,” he said, “but these are not just settling cracks. These won’t fix themselves. If people suspect they have pyrite, they need to join the action group and speak out. We need to get a true sense of the scale of the problem to convince the government to extend the scheme.”
As to funding the scheme, Senator Dooley said many organisations have questions to answer.
“It’s not the fault of the small-scale builders who bought blocks in good faith,” he said.
“However, there are profitable companies across the country, who have questions to answer, as do regulators. The banks could have a role here too.”
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday on a successful Sinn Féin motion calling for 100% redress. Deputy Violet Anne Wynne described the existing scheme as “not fit for purpose”.
“This is absolute madness,” she said. “The Government in Dublin simply has not been listening and has not been getting the message.”
In a press statement, Deputy Michael McNamara confirmed that the Clare County Council is examining the condition of its own housing stock.
“Testing of the affected properties will be carried out in the coming days,” he said.
“The Housing Department informed that the estates in question were part of the Council’s Stock Condition Survey during 2018 and until recently showed no sign of having any structural problems. Clare County Council has also issued Tender Documents to six qualified consultant engineers,” he said.
“The closing date is this Friday and will be followed by tender assessment and appointment. 
“The final report on the scale of the problem in Clare is expected to be issued to the Department during the third quarter of this year.”

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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