Engagement is ongoing between the Irish Government and Clare County Council regarding the potential extension of the defective concrete blocks grants scheme to affected homes in Clare.
Up to 35 homeowners in Clare have reported significant cracking of external walls due to the presence of pyrite in the building blocks used to construct the houses. Officials in the Department of Housing have said there is an opportunity for Clare’s local authority to take the lead by demonstrating the issues are prevalent in the county.
In August, Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien (FF) announced a new defective concrete blocks scheme for Mayo and Donegal which offers five remedial options. Separate grant limits apply to each option, ranging from €247,500 for the complete demolition and rebuilding of a dwelling to €49,500 for the demolition and rebuilding of the outer leaf of affected walls only.
Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) noted “the problem is not, unfortunately, unique to Donegal and Mayo”. He like fellow Oireachtas members and Clare councillors have called for the scheme to be extended to Clare. “In Clare, a number of houses have been found to be essentially crumbling, without exaggerating the matter, as a result of defective concrete blocks. Owners have had engineers examine the dwellings and it has been found that it is as a result of pyrite in the concrete.”
“One manufacturer of concrete blocks in the Mid-West links all of those buildings. It is an issue which goes beyond Clare. I understand 35 people are involved in an action group and approximately 33 houses have been identified in Clare. Unfortunately, there is a belief that the problem extends outside of Clare to other areas in the Mid-West because it is a result of concrete blocks from one particular manufacturer,” Deputy McNamara stated.
“If the Government saw fit to fund a scheme like this in respect of Mayo and Donegal, which I welcome, I see no reason whatsoever my constituents and any other constituents in the country who suffer from exactly the same problem should not be treated in exactly the same way by the Government. It is a matter of basic equality. I urge the Department to consider extending the scheme to Clare,” the Scariff native told the Dáil.
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan (GP) confirmed that Departmental officials are in communication with Clare County Council “regarding the evidential data requirements. Any consideration of an extension to the defective concrete blocks grants scheme would require the same rigorous analysis as that carried out in Donegal and Mayo.”
McNamara replied, “We have to establish that the problem arises from concrete blocks. I believe that will be established in the facts of the cases in Clare. Many of the homeowners have prepared detailed engineering studies. The majority of the homeowners in this instance are retirees and have family homes. They have worked all their lives and paid the mortgages on them. Like most people having paid their mortgage, they are retiring on a pension and they just do not have the money for the substantial works required”.
Junior Minister Noonan outlined, “There is an opportunity for Clare County Council to take the lead and, first, demonstrate that the issues in Clare are, in fact, due to the presence of excessive levels of deleterious materials, whether mica or pyrite, in the aggregate used to manufacture the concrete blocks. Second, the council should quantify the extent of the problem in the area. Working within this framework, Clare County Council may be able to provide the evidential data necessary for the consideration of any extension of the scheme, which would be helpful to the Department in its deliberations. The Department will continue – I give a commitment to that – working with Clare County Council in this regard to, I hope, reach a satisfactory conclusion”.