ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan has given builders and insurers a last chance to pay for the repair of up to 11,000 homes damaged by pyrite.
He said they had 10 days to come up with a viable proposal -- or else he would impose a levy on the construction, quarry and insurance companies who were responsible for the pyrite-damaged homes.
"I will not delay in finalising robust proposals," he said. "It is the homeowners who have suffered far too long from this problem."
Pyrite, also known as 'fool's gold', is a natural mineral found in stone which becomes unstable when exposed to air or water. It has caused cracking, splitting and buckling of walls, floors and ceilings.
It is expected to cost €45,000 to fix each of the homes damaged by pyrite.
Mr Hogan had previously given the companies a deadline of the end of last month to come up with a solution. But he said the responses he received were "disappointing".
The 'Pyrite Panel' report found that up to 12,250 homes were potentially exposed to pyrite. Around 1,100 homes have been fixed by builders.
But of the 11,150 homes remaining, 850 require immediate repairs and a further 10,300 could require repairs in the future.
Mr Hogan said the priority was to deal with the 850 dwellings in need of immediate remediation and put a "green, red and amber" system in place to repair damage in the remaining homes as it emerged.
However, this has frustrated homeowners, who do not want to live with the threat of pyrite.
Junior Agriculture Minister Shane McEntee, who was involved in negotiations to get 700 pyrite-damaged homes repaired by builders, said he believed the Government's plan to set up an industry-funded pyrite-repair scheme was better than going down the legal route.
Most of the homes affected are in Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Offaly. The building material containing pyrite came from certain quarries.
Mr Hogan's ultimatum to builders and insurers came as around 80 homeowners with pyrite-damaged properties protested outside the Dail and then entered the Dail visitors' gallery to listen to the debate.
But Independent TD Clare Daly said Mr Hogan's comments about the State not being responsible were an "insult" to homeowners. She added that there had been a lack of oversight of the building and quarrying sector.
Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor
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