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Pyrite Action Group call for more political support

POLITICAL support is increasing for a number of Clare householders whose properties are beginning to crack and crumble as a result of defective material in the blockwork.

Since it was formed at the start of last month, the Clare Pyrite Action Group has had more than 30 people come forward from all parts of the county to highlight the condition of their homes. After a virtual meeting with Deputy Cathal Crowe last week, the action group is to hold an open event on Monday in the hope of garnering the support of more Oireachtas members and county councillors. To-date, a number of parliamentary questions have been tabled on their behalf about the possibility of extending a remediation scheme for those affected by defective blockwork, but none has received a positive response.

Last week, the Department of Housing approved a call to have Limerick city and county taken under the remit of a scheme for homes where pyrite is present in the foundation. While the nature of the problem is not the same as that facing Clare householders, who are affected by defective blocks, the action group has taken some hope from the news.

“Our situation is totally different,” said Dr Martina Cleary, founder of the action group. “We are looking at the Limerick news as a good sign though. It means the minister is open to helping more homeowners. What we need now is for the scheme for those with defective blocks to be extended. It’s available in Donegal and Mayo. Clare has to be next.”

Another member of the action group, Mary Hanley, has invited councillors from the Shannon Municipal District to gather at her house, next Tuesday, for a meeting which area chairperson Councillor Pat McMahon is to convene

Mary and her husband Séamus live in a house which a consultant engineer has judged to be “significantly damaged” by the presence of defective materials such as pyrite and/or mica.

“We’re getting fantastic support from our local councillors,” Mrs Hanley said. “What we hope is that they will get an understanding of the nature of the problem in Clare. Our problem is with the concrete blocks. That’s why we need politicians to push to get us into the Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme, which is only available at the moment in Donegal and Mayo. We hope that councillors will bring a motion before the county council and that a case will then be made to the Housing Minister to extend that scheme to Clare.”

Mrs Hanley noted that she was hearing anecdotally of many more people affected by defective blocks, who were reluctant to come forward. “The thing is that none of us caused this problem,” she said. “We bought our homes in good faith. We have to stand up and be counted, because we won’t get into the scheme otherwise.”

The view was backed by Sinn Féin TD, Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne after the party’s housing spokesperson raised the issue in the Dáil. “Like Eoin [Ó Broin], I would call for the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme to be extended to Clare,” she said. “I don’t believe it’s fair or just to limit it to just two counties. I know what it’s like to wonder if you’ll have a roof over your head and there is huge distress and fear for those affected. The action group has done great work in getting people together and it’s really important that more people speak up.”

Currently, Clare is excluded from the only schemes which offer redress to homeowners affected by pyrite and/or mica. The Pyrite Remediation Scheme covers homeowners in some counties in Limerick, the midlands and east, if pyrite is present in their foundations. Earlier this year, the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme came on stream for Donegal and Mayo.

Pyrite and mica are naturally occurring materials in stone, but when present in large quantities can cause irreparable damage in buildings.

The Clare action group can be contacted at clarepyriteactiongroup@gmail.com or through their Facebook page.

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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