Councillors demand legal action over pyrite damage

Dublin council faces costs in excess of €7m over structural issues in social housing

Pyrite damage at a house in Finglas, Co Dublin. File  photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Pyrite damage at a house in Finglas, Co Dublin. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Contractors who used materials containing pyrite in the construction of homes for Dublin City Council should be pursued through the courts, councillors have said.

Severe structural damage to social housing in Dublin, attributed to the presence of pyrite in the foundations, will cost more than €7 million to fix, according to a report presented to councillors on Wednesday.

However, the council’s head of finance, Kathy Quinn, told councillors the final cost could be higher, as it can be many years before pyrite damage becomes apparent.

“We would be wrong to say this is the total of what it will be. It may be, but it may not be,” she said.

Almost 150 homes and a number of community facilities, spread over nine estates built in the city in the last decade, have been damaged by “pyritic heave”, where the presence of the mineral in foundations has caused subsidence and cracks in the buildings.

The report, by the council’s senior structural engineer Peter Finnegan, said that in several cases there was “no possibility” of pursuing the costs of fixing the defects in the courts because the developers were no longer operating or “close to liquidation”.

The report said that this made the recovery of the council’s costs unlikely.

However, councillors said that where a company is solvent, a claim should be pursued.

“We should be going after the contractors. If some of these guys are in business I don’t know why they wouldn’t be liable,” Sinn Féin’s Noeleen Reilly said.

Fine Gael councillor Paddy McCartan said the costs to the council were “quite daunting”.

He said that some of the contractors were still using the houses built for the council as promotional material on their websites.

“I’d like to get some explanation [over] how we’re going to deal with the situation.

“We are obviously not to blame, but we have to pick up all of this €7 million figure?”

Criminal proceedings

Independent councillors Mannix Flynn and Ruairí McGinley raised the possibility of taking criminal proceedings, as well as civil cases, if it could be shown that the contractors had known they were using materials containing pyrite.

Ms Quinn said the council was seeking to recoup funds where possible.

“Where we can, we are pursuing companies. The issue is difficult to prove in court but be assured we are pursuing this.

“We are seeking funding from the Department of the Environment as well.”