Pyrite scandal: Widowed with two children in a crumbling home

When it comes to the remedial scheme, ‘the whole process is just nuts. It makes no sense’

Tara Devon with Ryan (5) and Kian (2) at home in Ashbourne. “It’s like, you do have pyrite now but we still won’t fix you.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Tara Devon with Ryan (5) and Kian (2) at home in Ashbourne. “It’s like, you do have pyrite now but we still won’t fix you.” Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Tara Devon says it was a “typical story”: young couple save hard for their first home, move in and have children. Everything seemed perfect. And then the cracks appeared.

“I was only 22 at the time,” she says. “Myself and Colm had been in Australia travelling and we said we would go home and settle down.” They bought their three-bedroom, mid-terrace home in 2005.

Slowly, the Rathlodge estate in Ashbourne, Co Meath, began to show signs of pyrite damage.

Pyrite is a mineral which can swell under certain conditions and is found in construction materials such as back-fill.

“You are kind of walking around the house looking at cracks and thinking at first that they are settling cracks,” Tara says. “ Then you start to wonder.”

Things began to deteriorate from about three years ago, first in their home and then in their lives. In January 2015, Colm was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“He was sick for 21 months. Those 21 months we just spent doing bucket lists,” says Tara. They made memory boxes for the children, Ryan (5) and Kian (2), and bought presents to give them on their wedding days.

The first engineer came in May 2015, spent 15 minutes in the house and said there was no pyrite issue. The assessment cost them about €300. She knows people who have spent up to €600.

They began to contact TDs and got involved with the Pyrite Equality Group, with whom they made a video from Colm’s oncology ward.

Mind does wander

“I suppose Colm being ill and knowing that he was going to pass away . . .your mind does wander into the future and he was thinking I wouldn’t want to live in this house. That’s when we really began looking at trying to get the house fixed.”

Last summer, another engineer said they had pyrite, though not enough to qualify for the remedial scheme.

“It’s like, you do have pyrite now but we still won’t fix you. I have the same opinion as other people: if you have pyrite it should be fixed,” Tara says.

“At the end of June we were given the news that Colm only had a couple of months left. His biggest fear about leaving us was how we would live the rest of our lives. He said, ‘I can go once I know you and the boys are sorted’. And that just never happened.”

Colm died last September at the age of 36.

Just before Christmas, a third engineer told Tara the property was closer to eligibility for the scheme. Certain parts, including the floor and ceiling, met the criteria, but fixtures and fittings had not shifted enough.

“I am now 3mm away from being eligible,” Tara says of the architrave around the door.

Statistics on the number of homeowners who have applied for the scheme tell you nothing about the extent of homes affected, she says.

“The whole process is just nuts. It makes no sense to anyone. The scheme is very good if your house is falling asunder. It wasn’t made for people with [typical experiences of] pyrite.”