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Pyrite: There are 'legal and moral responsibilities'

The chairman of the pyrite panel made the comment at an Oireachtas committee meeting this afternoon.

Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

THE QUESTION OF whether people whose homes were damaged by pyrite could launch a class action against those responsible was discussed by the pyrite panel today.

They are discussing the issue with the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht committee at a meeting this afternoon

Apportioning blame

Brendan Tuohy, chairman of the panel, said that in preparing the report it engaged with 44 different groups and individuals affected by the issue.

He said the panel was not set up with a legal statute and was “not in the business of apportioning blame”.

Deputy Ciarán Lynch, who chaired the meeting, said that there was a letter from HomeBond saying it had no liability, and that “what HomeBond have done is they have taken a preferred interpretation of a court ruling and put an interpretation on that themselves and… they have walked off the pitch”.

He asked what is the level of enforcement and sanction that can be applied to stakeholders. Lynch also said that the homeowners cannot take on the financial industry or HomeBond.

Tuohy said that “there are moral and legal responsibilities” and that there are “people out here suffering” and the builders should engage with them.

He added that there are 150 houses  in the red category which “deserve to be dealt with immediately”. “We think that action should happen sooner rather than later,” said Tuohy.

We were making recommendations for the Government and ministers to follow – it’s up for them to decide.

He said that he would “much prefer to see action quickly and see the houses repaired.”

Class action

Barry Cowen TD asked it if was possible for the State to look at the legalities of taking a class action suit.

He said it is “important those at fault for using pyrite have to be made responsible”.

Tuohy said that Ireland doesn’t have the facility for a class action in law, and “I don’t think it is for us to change the law on that”.

It is an issue for the Law Reform Committee and an issue for this committee to pass on.

Tuohy said that in determining how many homes were affected, the panel did an analysis of five quarries within a 25km radius.

He said they tried to triangulate using five different sources of information and that 23 estates were identified that hadn’t previously been identified as being affected by pyrite.

Devalue

Tuohy said that people are “very slow to talk about the fact they have pyrite” in their homes as they believe it devalues their home. He said that some people “wanted work done quietly without neighbours knowing what is going on”.

“Those who caused the problem should pay for the problem is the consistent message,” said Tuohy. “We don’t think the State is particularly responsible.”

The pace at which pyrite damage occurred “really threw people,” said Tuohy.

Homeowners found it very difficult to get engagement from anybody. It took five years – or just over four years – for a minister to say I’m going to set up something.

Deputy Catherine Murphy said that “the homeowner is the victim in this case” and that some builders dragged their heels and shouldn’t benefit.

“I believe there should be a licensing of the construction department,” said Murphy. “I do think we need a full licensing system”.

Read: What is the cost of repairing pyrite-damaged homes?

Read: Over 10,000 homes could harbour unidentified pyrite problems>

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