Pyrite families ‘left in limbo’ as plan rejected over cost to Government

More generous remedial scheme rejected under Dáil rules

Pyrite damage: residents campaigning in 2011. By January this year the Pyrite Resolution Board had approved 1,277 applications for remediation, with repairs completed in 526 cases. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Pyrite damage: residents campaigning in 2011. By January this year the Pyrite Resolution Board had approved 1,277 applications for remediation, with repairs completed in 526 cases. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Owners of homes affected by pyrite have been told that improvements to a controversial remedial scheme have been rejected because they would cost the Government money.

A limited scheme launched in 2013 has been criticised by property owners who do not qualify as their homes are not deemed to be to have been significantly damaged by the mineral, which can react with other components of a building’s foundations to swell beneath a house, cracking floor slabs, lifting joists and moving walls. They say that, tainted by association, their properties are impossible to sell, effectively leaving thousands of families in limbo.

The Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly drafted legislation to make the scheme more accessible, as well as introducing a certification system to give a clean bill of health to properties with no or inconsequential levels of pyrite.

“I have now been formally told that I am being prevented from moving the Bill as there would be a cost to the Exchequer and only the Government can move such legislation,” she wrote in a circular to constituents in north Dublin, one of several areas affected by the crisis.

20,000 homes

Pyrite is thought to be present in about 20,000 homes, although many owners believe they will never receive State assistance in addressing the problem, as their homes do not meet the level of damage that the 2013 scheme requires on a scale overseen by the Pyrite Resolution Board. Critics say the vast majority do not qualify.

The Government has said it is a scheme of last resort and is limited in application and scope. Affected homes must have been built between 1997 and 2013 and be in the Dublin City Council area or in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Kildare, Meath, Offaly or South Dublin county council area. There are no plans to alter it.

“The starting point of any approach to deal with pyrite has to be a recognition that homeowners are the victims of this situation and cannot be expected to shoulder the costs of a crisis not of your creation,” Ms Daly wrote.

In a letter in April Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl told Ms Daly her Pyrite Resolution (Amendment) Bill could not be introduced for debate as it would require the appropriation of public finances and did not come from a member of the Government, contravening Dáil rules.

Ms Daly responded by saying that although the amendment would extend the current scheme it would not be a free-for-all “with every dwelling which has pyrite being remediated. Rather it is developing the idea of a remediation and certification scheme”.

Certification scheme

The Bill would have deemed the presence of pyrite, rather than its presence at a particular level, as enough to include a home in the scheme. It would also have allowed for certification of properties with limited pyrite, helping owners to sell their property.

By January 1,277 applications for remediation had been approved, with repairs completed in 526 cases.

David McGinley of the Pyrite Equality Group, which has been pushing for greater inclusivity, said he has given up on his own home, which he bought in 2005, being accepted. “I know people who have had kids since they moved in, and they can’t move on with their lives,” he said. “There are high levels of frustration. There doesn’t seem to be any political will.”