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Dr Martina Cleary, founder the Clare Pyrite Action Group with other members at a protest in Ennis last June. Pic Arthur Ellis.

‘Their walls are crumbling, their lives are decimated’, Seanad told

A CALL has been made for a Clare representative to be appointed to a committee reviewing the defective concrete blocks scheme, in the hope that redress might be extended to homeowners in this county.
In the Seanad this week, Senator Timmy Dooley said the lives of homeowners in Clare and elsewhere have been “decimated” by the presence of defects caused by pyrite and mica.
The matter was raised in the upper house by Senator Dooley and two party colleagues, Lisa Chambers and Niall Blaney.
Senators Chambers and Blaney, representing Mayo and Donegal respectively, which are covered by the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, called for the redress to be increased from a maximum of 90% to 100%.
Senator Dooley told the house the scheme must be extended to this county, where the extent of the issue is only becoming known.
“…There is a real issue with defective blocks in County Clare,” the Fianna Fáil senator said.
“It is not mica but pyrite and we too want to be included in the scheme. We will not accept anything less than 100% redress. I have visited the homes affected and to say the homeowners are devastated by what is happening is an understatement. Their walls are crumbling and their lives are decimated.
“The State needs to stand behind them. I understand that a working group has been established with representatives from the mica action group in the north west.
“I ask that the Department also appoint somebody from the Clare action group to join that committee, in order to give an insight into a similar problem that is different in nature.”
Under parliamentary privilege, Senator Dooley identified a source believed to be associated with the blocks.
“I join colleagues in recognising that others need to participate in this redress scheme,” he said.
He added that the issue of pursuing that was a matter for government and not for homeowners.
“The Government now needs to come forward and set out a clear plan to provide 100% redress,” he insisted.
Responding, Minister of State Colm Brophy described the hardship suffered by those whose homes are affected by defective concrete blocks as “shocking” and “unimaginable”.
However, Junior Minister Brophy also warned the Seanad that any extension of the redress scheme to counties including Clare must involve the same rigorous process required before it was opened to homeowners in Mayo and Donegal.
The Fine Gael TD added that any extension of the Defective Concrete Block Scheme would have to be subject to budgetary discussions.
He acknowledged the issue is “particularly emotive for households”. “Currently, the grant scheme only applies to the counties of Donegal and Mayo but additional counties are seeking admittance to it,” he said.
“Any extension to the scheme will require the same rigorous analysis as that carried out prior its rollout in Donegal and Mayo. It would also have to be the subject of budgetary discussions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.”
The junior minister outlined the time-frame for a review of the amount of redress on offer. “It is intended that the review will be completed by July 31 and that it will inform any changes or improvements to the scheme as may be required,” he said.
“Following receipt of the report of the working group and the ensuing collaboration with ministerial colleagues and, in particular, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Attorney General, proposals will be brought to Government.”
Separately, Clare County Council is continuing to compile evidence requested by the Department of Housing regarding a possible extension of the redress scheme to Clare.
“To this end we are in the process of preparing a detailed submission to the Department which is to include analysis of the extent of the prevalence of pyrite/mica in developments in the County,” a statement from the local authority said.
“Clare County Council are liaising with Clare Pyrite Mica Action Group and have identified a number of private properties from which samples have been taken and are currently being tested. We recently identified a small number of local authority built estates which may potentially be affected and tests to determine if pyrite/mica are present are scheduled for the coming days. Once all the necessary information is collated the submission will be sent to the Department and from there, we will await a decision on the extension of the scheme to Clare.”

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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