Thursday 24 June 2010

Location of 25 estates in pyrite probes to stay secret

A JUDGE has ordered a ban on naming more than 25 new housing estates where residents have complained that their homes have been damaged due to the use of pyrite.

To prevent panic among homeowners, the Commercial Court has ruled that a list of the estates -- along with several quarries alleged to have supplied the defective material that caused floors and walls to heave and crack -- will be kept secret.

The list, compiled by Homebond, the builder's insurers, comes as politicians have warned of a pyrite "epidemic" in Ireland, with up to 20,000 homeowners complaining about cracked floors and walls and swelling.

It is feared that publication of the list would have a dramatic impact on the valuations of homes and that people living adjacent to the homes in question will assume, incorrectly, that their properties are also affected.

Homebond's Conor Taaffe, who testified before High Court Judge John Gilligan earlier this week, warned that if builders are identified with the pyrite problem they will have difficulties selling houses in other estates.


Mr Taaffe was giving evidence in the marathon legal action between developer Seamus Ross's Menolly Homes and several companies within the Lagan Group.

Menolly has sued the Lagan companies alleging cracks and swelling in hundreds of houses on three estates in north Dublin built by Menolly were caused by defective pyrite infill supplied by Lagan.

Lagan vigorously denies the claim.

Menolly is seeking indemnity against any compensation claims it may have to pay to homeowners complaining of cracked and swollen walls on the estates of Drynam Hall in Kinsealy, and Beaupark and Myrtle in north Dublin.

The High Court has already heard claims from Menolly that it could be facing a bill of €60m in compensation claims from as many as 759 householders on three north Dublin estates over alleged building defects.

Residents have complained that the vast resources being used to prosecute and defend the civil action could be used to fix their homes.

Last night, Fine Gael spokesman on housing, Terence Flanagan TD, called for an audit of all quarries where allegedly defective material was sourced to find out the true extent of the pyrite problem.

"It is a disaster," said Mr Flanagan. "And the longer this litigation goes on, the less funds there will be available to fix people's homes. A taskforce must be set up by the government to address the issue."

All legal parties in the Menolly/Lagan legal action have given undertakings not to disclose the contents of the Homebond list and estates will only be identified by code when references are made to them in the court.

The Menolly/Lagan action, which began a year ago, has incurred costs of several million euro to date and is not expected to conclude until next year.

Final costs for the action, which are likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, could exceed €20m.

Yesterday marked the 126th day of the High Court action, which has already surpassed the epic DCC/Fyffes insider trading action, which lasted 87 days in the High Court.

Earlier this year, Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee told the Oireachtas transport committee that two homes in his Co Meath constituency had "exploded" because of the inappropriate use of pyrite in their construction.

Mr McEntee, who has been involved in a high-profile campaign to have remedial works carried out on behalf of constituents, claimed that there were thousands of homeowners in Dublin, Kildare and Meath who were desperate as their homes had been damaged due to the use of pyrite.

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

Irish Independent

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