Monday, 15 February 2021
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
I thank the Minister of State for his attendance to discuss this matter. It is the second time I have brought it up in the Seanad. It concerns the need for the expansion of the supports for homeowners whose dwellings are affected by pyrite. The Minister of State is well aware that the pyrite remediation scheme eligibility conditions, specifically the construction date, limits the remediations to dwellings built after 1997 and before 2014. I have been corresponding recently with the Pyrite Resolution Board over a particular couple and it told me that the reason for these dates was because the earliest identified cases related to 1997, hence a reference to the dwellings constructed thereafter when the eligibility for the pyrite scheme was first established. While that might have been the case during the development of the pyrite panel in 2012, homeowners of dwellings built prior to 1997 are now noticing serious pyritic heave, and the associated damages that go along with it, to their homes. While they fit nearly all the other eligibility criteria the construction date restriction is making sure that they cannot get access to this scheme.
I recently moved to the constituency of Dublin Fingal. I have had a number of families from Lusk and Rush contact me, including one particular family. There should not be a hierarchy but the situation for this family is heartbreaking because they are an elderly retired couple. They are deeply frustrated and upset. I would go so far as to tell the Minister of State that their mental health is being seriously damaged because they see no resolution or way out and that the entire process is affecting them in a serious way. They became so concerned that their house, which was constructed in 1990, was beginning to crumble around them that they commissioned their own chartered engineer's report to do a full investigation. It included all block testing and analysis. The findings noted that the blockwork used in the construction of the house contained the deleterious material pyrite and it caused an eventual gradual breakdown and a total loss to their structural integrity.
I note the Department last year launched the new defective concrete blocks grant scheme for Mayo and Donegal. That scheme might be relevant now in north County Dublin and the houses in Fingal because if a home is so badly affected by either pyrite or defective blocks the construction date should not be the limiting factor. I understand and respect why that was the case in 2012 when we were in the onslaught of what was brand new to us at that stage and for this particular generation but as the Minister of State is well aware, as politicians we have all seen the deep distress people living with pyrite are under. In the area where I live I have been lucky enough to see the relief when a house is finally remediated. It is life-changing. It is a moment when one finally gets one's keys back and can return to being a happy homeowner as opposed to the shadow of the people who are living under mental stress every day. As far as they are concerned the only hope for them is if the State steps in because at this stage of their lives they certainly could not afford to remediate or even take out a loan to remediate their own homes.
I do not know whether the solution is to amend the pyrite remediation scheme or to include these in the other scheme. This issue is not unique to north County Dublin. There are probably houses in every county that have the same issue. Hundreds of people are excluded from both these schemes that have made such an impact and a difference to the lives of those who have benefited from them. I ask the Minister of State to request the extension of either the pyrite remediation scheme or the defective concrete blocks grant scheme.This will allow those people with houses built prior to 1997 to access the supports they need to fix their homes and continue to live in them without the fear of them collapsing around them.