The government’s failure to act on recommendations of a report into the pyrite scandal will be highlighted in a major academic conference in Lisbon, Portugal, this week.
Dr Eileen Doherty, the long-standing mica campaigner, has studied the recommendations made in the 2012 Pyrite Panel report on the pyrite crisis which affected homes in Dublin and Leinster.
After presenting her findings at the European Conference on Management Leadership and Governance in Lisbon this week, she will talk at next Tuesday’s defective concrete conference at the Atlantic Technological University in Letterkenny
She says the lessons contained in the report of the Pyrite Panel were not learned or applied.
“We had a phenomenon like this before, namely pyrite, and yet almost a decade later we’re almost in the same position with mica.
“Ten years on from the report of the Pyrite Panel, why are we still running into the same kind of problems with Homebond and insurance and the banks walking away?
“The Government didn’t learn from the recommendations that were made back then.”
The institutional learning that should have come from the pyrite scandal didn’t happen, she says.
“We need a public inquiry,” Dr Doherty, who is a lecturer in digital transformation at Ulster University said.
“We have got to work out how we arrived at this situation.
“The cost to the State is in the low billions at the moment, but that’s going to steadily grow and several more billions will be added in the coming years.
“This was dragged out for years because, quite simply, the government didn’t want to take responsibility for this.
“Putting their heads in the sand has helped no one, including themselves.
“Had they listened to us early on, we could have prevented at least some of this.
“There are people coming forward now whose homes were built around the time we started raising this.
“Would those families’ homes been built with those blocks if the Government had intervened back then?”
Dr Doherty – along with Ulster University’s Professor Paul Dunlop and Joseph Morgan, the director of engineering at Druva – is on the organising committee for the international conference that will examine the science and societal impacts of defective concrete at the ATU campus in Letterkenny next Tuesday.
The conference draws together international experts in geology, earth sciences and engineering who research the impacts of deleterious minerals on concrete from Canada, the USA, Switzerland and Norway who will speak about their own research as well as learn more about the defective blocks issue in Ireland.
One of the contributions at the conference will be from a commercial property owner whose property is affected, and that person is speaking on behalf of others business owners in a similar situation.
“The contribution will be made anonymously, because the business owners are frightened about what will happen their insurance,” Dr Doherty said.
“That’s very poignant. Businesses are stuck, and terrified to talk about it publicly because of the implications for them if public liability insurance would be withdrawn.”
It’s not dissimilar to how homeowners were in the past, afraid to publicly acknowledge the presence of mica.
“The government hasn’t acted yet for commercial property, but it did for pyrite and it will have to do so again.”