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Pyrite Panel Report Implementation (Continued)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 1

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Deputy Alan Farrell: Information on Alan Farrell Zoom on Alan Farrell I thank the Minister of State for his response.

I am concerned that this is dragging on. As the Minister of State is aware, I have personal involvement in this matter. It is deeply traumatising, months after the report was published, that uncertainty continues as to what we propose to do with regard to the establishment of the resolution board and standardised testing. This is very important to residents not only in my constituency, but in the Minister of State's and right across Leinster. I am deeply concerned that, a number of months after the pyrite panel's findings were published, we are still uncertain as to who has not engaged with the Minister or with the panel with a view to finding resolutions to the issue.

We now learn that an amber category has been created. Residents in this category, many of whom live not far from myself, are aware of structural movement in their properties that does not conform with drying out or settlement but have not had their properties tested and do not have the means to have them tested. They are probably affected by the issue but because they are in the amber category, their homes will probably not be checked for pyrite. That is unacceptable. I agree that it is entirely the responsibility of the construction companies to ensure that the properties are up to standard. Given that the report is on the public record, however, the State should cajole those individuals into providing the testing that so many residents are seeking. The standardisation of testing is also important.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd A key factor is that only five of the 1,200 quarries in the country have been identified as being involved in pyrite. I am not making little of the problem when I say that a total of five quarries are involved. The known spread of pyrite is around Fingal, counties Dublin and Kildare and parts of Meath and Offaly. It is a serious problem for anyone who has it. There can be pyrite heave when the building has actually moved. We saw in the report the appalling vista people face when their walls move out of place and doors cannot open. This is very significant and is adversely affecting thousands of people.

I accept what Deputy Farrell is saying about the amber category. There are estates where pyrite is definitely present and where there is absolute evidence of pyrite heave or movement. That does not mean every house in the estate has a pyrite problem. Pyrite reacts with water at a certain temperature to form gypsum and increases to twice its size. In such an estate, because the mix in the floors came from different locations, some houses may not be affected. Such houses are in the amber category. Every house where it is believed pyrite is present is watched. If there is actual movement in a house, it will definitely be dealt with. If there is not actual movement, the house will definitely be observed and watched. In Ireland, this observation can take between one and nine years. In Canada, for geographic and climate reasons, I understand it can take up to 20 years for something to happen.

It is fundamental to the Government and to the Minister that the issue is being dealt with. It will, ideally, be dealt with through a voluntary consensus agreement with no cost to the State but with rigorous oversight independent of the people concerned. I hope that is what will happen.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen I accept the bona fides of the Minister with regard to his efforts to put in place a resolutions board. We have all given him the benefit of the doubt in that regard but this cannot be allowed to carry on indefinitely without arriving at a conclusion. I ask a specific question to that end.

The stakeholders are pivotal to making the solution cost neutral for the State. Have the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Concrete Federation and the banks and insurance federations committed to the process, to a resolutions board and a rectification process and procedure? This should not be confined to the findings of the pyrite panel report but should take consideration, for example, of what Deputy Farrell has said about the amber category.

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