Progress for council owned homes with pyrite problems

There has been some progress for tenants of local authority homes affected by pyrite, it was revealed this week, but there was not good news for private home owners in the county also affected by the problem. At this week’s meeting of the West Mayo Municipal District, Martin Keating, the director of services for the district, told the elected members: “We’ve received communication from the Department that confirms that they are not covered by the pyrite remediation scheme [which was in place in the east of the country], but they are willing to work with Mayo County Council to resolve the issue. They have asked us to commission a number of further tests and studies on the units and to submit them to them as soon as possible. Arrangements are being made to have that done at the minute, we will keep you appraised on that. We are very glad to see there is movement on it from the Department, or at least a willingness to work with the council on resolving the social housing units.”

Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle questioned why the council or the relevant Government department had not taken any legal action against the quarries that sold the pyrite affected products, saying: “Everyone was waiting for one case to come from the council or Department against a quarry, it would give a better chance if it was carried through and won, it would give courage to normal people to press on. Because they already have children going to school or college, paying a mortgage, and are already out of pocket. They are afraid to take it on and go to court and spend another €20k and maybe lose, it is €4k to get the testing done, are they paying good money after bad.”

Sinn Fein councillor Rose Conway Walsh told the meeting: “Really the man who is responsible, the man who is responsible for there not being the legislation there to protect it, has gone to Europe on a €300k salary. I’ve examined the legislation on this, there is not a remit there. I would not like to give people the impression the local authority has a remit there, because there are a lot of legal questions over it. The way to address it was to extend the scheme the Government brought in for the eastern area, there’s a huge inequity there. That would have been one way to address it, I just think the people need to be clear where the responsibility lies, and that is with central government and the legislation to be put in place. People are living in homes that aren’t fit to live in and have mortgages on homes that are worth nothing.”

Keating responded to the councillors queries, saying: “I understand the members discussing it and the empathy shown towards private householders, unfortunately I do not have any answers in relation to those. They do not fall within our remit and I would prefer not to make comment, unfortunately there is nothing the council can do officially. But I do understand there has to be some forum to air their position in and it is appropriate that you would do so. “

He went on to say: “In relation to the social housing, we have taken legal advice, our first port of call was to follow the contractor and the quarries that supplied the material to it. Our advice is that we do not have a case because of the statute of limitations in relation to it. From the point of view of spending public money when you are given definitive advice like that, you just can’t go taking on the challenge which you know will fail. That’s on one side, but we have to balance it up with the problem for the people whose housing is quickly becoming substandard, that is why I have asked to keep the item on our housing report. This month is the first month we have had some positive indications on it. There is the move towards a resolution in sight for the public tenants, and at the end of the day that is my responsibility to ensure that a solution is found in relation to those, we’ll pursue it as vigorously as we can until we get a solution.”

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