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Criticism of council after 19 rejections of pyrite homes in Mayo overturned on appeal

Applications had been rejected despite engineers’ reports and tests confirming the presence of pyrite.

Thousands of people protested in Dublin in June in support of families impacted by mica and pyrite.
Thousands of people protested in Dublin in June in support of families impacted by mica and pyrite.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

MAYO COUNTY COUNCIL has come under criticism after its rejection of 19 applications for the Defective Blocks Scheme was overturned on appeal.

The scheme was set up to provide financial assistance to people whose homes were built with concrete blocks containing mica and pyrite.

Over the summer a number of impacted homeowners in Mayo were told that they had not provided sufficient evidence of damage to their homes, despite their submissions of engineer reports and test results confirming the presence of pyrite in the walls of their houses.

In the case of one homeowner who spoke to The Journal in August, the council’s own assessment report noted pattern-like cracking present in the external walls. Despite this observation, the council’s rejection letter to this homeowner stated “pattern cracking is not present”.

All 19 rejections that were appealed have now been overturned and these homeowners deemed eligible for the the scheme.

Barbara Clinton from the North Mayo Pyrite Group, speaking to Midwest Radio today, said this situation “should never have happened” as all of the applicants had reports from the approved list of qualified engineers outlining the damage to their homes.

She said these reports “should have been taken as Gospel” but instead the council had “done a box-ticking exercise from a desk and rejected those homeowners”.

“They didn’t even do a visual inspection of the homes and then those homeowners were put through six weeks of torture – and let me tell you, it was torture for those families – waiting for a decision,” she said.

On Monday impacted homeowners had heard from the council that a decision on their applications would be delayed by two weeks, but yesterday they were all contacted by the local authority informing them that their rejections had been overturned.

“Obviously Mayo County Council have not got a clue what they’re doing,” she said.

Sinn Féin TD for Mayo, Rose Conway-Walsh, said she was glad the council “had seen sense”, but questioned why these applications were ever rejected.

It was very obvious to me – and I’m not an engineer – from the houses that I visited in this appeals process that there was pattern cracking. I do believe they should have never been refused in the firstplace and I don’t know why they were. To me there’s no real evidence that they should have been.

“These homeowners were put through an awful lot of undue stress on top of the stress they were already experiencing.”

The Mayo TD said she is concerned for the mental wellbeing of impacted families, particularly the children living in homes damaged by pyrite.

“One woman was telling me her three-year-old daughter, when she saw another house said ‘Mummy, that house is cracked just like our house’,” she said.

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“There was a couple outside the Dáil today from Ballina and it was their fifth weddding anniversary – they spent it with placards outside the Dáil, with their children at home.

“Another woman outside the Dáil lives on her own and is solely responsible for the mortgage, she said the bank won’t lend her another €40,000 to meet the gap between what’s allocated in the scheme and what it costs to repair the house.”

She said the objective of government has to be to end this stress for families as soon as possible.

The appeals committee is made up of three people, two of whom are external to the council. In a statement, Mayo County Council stated that the committee is independent and noted that it had overturned the original decision.

“The council is satisfied with its handling of the applications,” it said. “The council, as outlined at the September council meeting has received 106 Stage 1 applications of which 74 Stage 1 confirmation of eligibility letters have issued to date.”

The council said it was “very mindful” of the acute stress and trauma involved for homeowners who have defective concrete blocks and “it is not the council’s intention to add to this”.

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