Durkan fears seven cases of defective blocks in Derry/Strabane only ‘tip of potentially large iceberg’

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Seven cases of defective blocks in homes in Derry and Strabane have been notified to the Department for Communities but a local MLA has warned this may be ‘the tip of a potentially large iceberg’.

Communities Minister Gordon Lyons said the department was aware of six cases in social homes and one case in a private home in Derry and Strabane.

“To my knowledge seven cases have been identified by Derry City and Strabane District Council: six social homes that have received redress and one private home that, I think, was not eligible for redress because of when it was built.

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"Those are the only cases that have come forward,” he told MLAs this week.

A home affected by mica blocks in Donegal.A home affected by mica blocks in Donegal.
A home affected by mica blocks in Donegal.

Mr. Lyons was speaking during a debate on Stormont’s proposed new Defective Premises Bill.

Foyle MLA Mark Durkan expressed concern that the number of homes affected by deleterious materials such as mica, pyrite, reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) will grow.

“The number of cases to date — seven — is small, but it is the tip of a potentially large iceberg. I am not sure what redress those cases have received,” he said.

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Mr. Durkan referred to the defective blocks crisis in Donegal, Mayo and Limerick where, he said, families had seen their ‘lives upended by the use of substandard materials in the building of their homes’.

"We are not talking about a faraway land; the cases are a stone's throw from my constituency. All of us will have constituents who own holiday homes in the South and have been cruelly excluded from any redress.

"I appeal to the Minister to raise the issue at the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) and to ensure that his legislation excludes no one on the basis of their permanent residence,” he said.

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During the debate Mr. Durkan continued: “We have spoken about Derry City and Strabane District Council's initiative to establish a register of defective premises.

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"If there are only seven on that register, I fear that it will grow. On January 6, when the Council's Director of Environment and Regeneration wrote to the Department's permanent secretary regarding defective mica blocks, officials responded in the same month to advise that the issue pertaining to defective mica blocks was a reserved matter and was not within the Department's responsibility.

"I am not sure how they received redress when, at the same time, the Department was denying any responsibility and saying that it was a reserved matter.”

Mr. Lyons responded: “Certainly, the Department stands ready to help with explanation of any of the current legislation. The legislation that we have provides opportunities for homeowners to seek redress from any party, including material providers, that has contributed to the construction of or carrying out of major work on a dwelling that is subsequently deemed to be uninhabitable due to poor workmanship or poor building materials.

"I am sure that my officials will have no issue in engaging with the council or, indeed, with anybody else on those issues to explain the legislation and the opportunities for redress that exist.”

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