Frank Brandon’s Column

Time to back Mayo and Donegal homeowners!

Our man Frank on backing homeowners affected by Mica and Pyrite, Outdoor Dining difficulties, the importance of local defibrillators, and international heroics on the golf course…

It is safe to say that for most people, the words ‘Mica’ and ‘Pyrite’ would have meant very little, and even if we had heard about them, we’d have hardly any knowledge of what they were. However, in recent times, everywhere we look we hear about Mica and Pyrite, and even if we are still unclear as to exactly what they are, we now know enough to realise that those two words have brought unbelievable heartbreak, misery, stress, and devastation to thousands of Irish people – most particularly in the Counties of Donegal and Mayo.

By now, the whole country is aware of the massive problems caused to almost 6,000 homes around the west and northwest, which were built with defective blocks. It seems to me, however, that as a nation, we are letting down the thousands of affected families.

A recent report by an engineering group recommended that all the houses be demolished, and that gives rise to lots of hard questions; the Government’s redress scheme only covers 90% of the rebuilding costs, and very simple maths show that the homeowners (who are already suffering greatly, as their dream houses fall apart before their very eyes) will also face extreme financial hardship if the scheme is not upgraded to the full 100%.

As well as that, the owners have to pay €5,000 to have checks carried out to ascertain that their houses are Mica or Pyrite affected before they can apply for the redress scheme. There also appears to be the possibility that planning permission must be sought again, even though the new house (if it’s ever built) must be on the same site and be exactly the same as the one it is replacing.

On the assumption that the new house costs €200,000 to build, it means the homeowner is already down €20,000 plus the €5,000 it costs to carry out the compulsory checks. Then of course, the question arises as to who pays for the demolition and disposal of the remains of the old house. No matter what way we look at it, the 90% scheme is totally unfair on the people who have already suffered so much, and it’s made all the more so because in Dublin the Government paid the full 100% rebuilding costs to anyone who was affected by similar problems.

Of course, even if they are looked after and everything else is in place – who will build all these thousands of houses? A friend of mine in the building trade tells me firstly that it is almost impossible to get skilled tradesmen, and secondly, prices are literally going through the roof, with building materials getting more and more expensive. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the longer this drags on, the more expensive the bill will be, and the more stress and strain will be heaped on the innocent householders.

I am aware that some people think this is not a problem that should land on the Government’s lap, and by extension, on our citizens’ collective laps, but this is such an extreme case that, in my opinion, we have to look after our own countrymen and women.

Without any more nonsense or excuses we must find the money to sort out this mess once and for all. We managed to find billions of euros for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), including, apparently, for some people who should never have got the full weekly amount. It’s time the Government went to the well again to bail out the 6,000 homeowners who have been devastated and destroyed by circumstances outside of their control.

The bad news is that the Government now fear that there may be as many as 12,000 homes affected, which makes the problem even bigger, but regardless of how many there are, we must look after them all and put an end to their never-ending suffering and frustration.


A fine Outdoor Dining mess!

For those of us lucky enough and old enough to remember Hall’s Pictorial Weekly (a satirical TV show set in the fictional town of Ballymagash that ran for seven or eight years in the 70s), I can only imagine what the great political characters like Councillor O’Hooligan, the Minister for Hardship, or Richie Ruin himself, would’ve made of the monumental mess our present Government has made in relation to the new outdoor seating areas that have been set up outside pubs and restaurants all round the country.

Despite the fact that we are all being encouraged to “think outdoors”, and despite the fact that councils have set up these outdoor seating areas, and publicans have gone to great expense to make them as comfortable and welcoming as possible, it seems that, as they are outside the licensed premises, they are acting illegally in allowing their customers to drink outside.

Thankfully, it seems that Gardaí are allowed to use their discretion in this instance, but nonetheless, a number of Galway pubs were told last Thursday night that they were breaking the law.

Pubs and restaurants have had a horrendous time for well over a year now, so you would have thought that all the Ts would have been crossed and the Is would have been dotted before the outdoor seating arrangements were put in place. Obviously this is not the case, and I’m sure it would’ve caused great controversy at the Ballymagash weekly Council meeting – and maybe resurrected the career of the Minister for Hardship. Certainly the pubs know all about hardship, so maybe it’s time to bring him back!


Walk in aid of Glinsk Defibrillator Group

If ever any event raised awareness of a particular topic, the recent near tragedy that befell Danish footballer Christian Eriksen certainly brought into clear focus the importance of having life-saving equipment, especially defibrillators, available at sporting and other events all over the world.

With this in mind, closer to home, Stacey and Gerdina Kelly of the Glinsk Defibrillator Group plan to walk from Glinsk NS to Knock Shrine (a distance of over 40km) to raise funds for the group. It is vitally important that communities have access to AED/Defibrillators, and that people are trained to use them, and the funds raised will go towards purchasing new batteries, ongoing maintenance of the existing defibrillators in the area, annual insurance, and to provide for upcoming training courses.

The walk will take place over the August Bank Holiday weekend, and they have set up a GoFundMe page. So if you can, make a donation, big or small, and help to reach the stated goal of €5,000.

As they say, you never know when you might need a defibrillator, and already, having them in our communities has saved many lives, so support them if at all possible. All funds raised will be published on the Glinsk Defib Facebook page and in the Parish newsletter.


Finally for this week…

Sport can be extremely cruel. Just over two weeks ago, Spanish golfer John Rahm suffered a devastating blow when he tested positive for Covid-19 just as he was about to play his final round in the Memorial tournament, where he held an amazing six-shot lead. He ended up having to withdraw completely from the tournament. While nothing can be certain, it is almost inconceivable that Rahm wouldn’t have won, and therefore, he almost certainty missed out on a payday of $1.7 million, which – no matter how wealthy he is – is still a sizeable sum.

And so, last weekend he managed to bounce back and win the US Open after the heartbreak of two weeks ago. After having to isolate for ten days, winning the competition must rank with some of the greatest sporting achievements, and even though he hardly gets the Roscommon People (Ed – We don’t know this for certain!), I have to offer him my heartiest congratulations.

Nearer home, Cavan golfer Leona Maguire (who has been making great strides in the professional game over in America) put in a superb performance in the Meijer LPGA Classic last weekend, when she posted a wonderful 23 under par total to finish second, winning herself more than $200,000.

There’s a better chance that she might see a copy of the People somewhere, so congratulations Leona – you did yourself, and Ireland, proud.

I can’t wait to get out on the golf course and see if can I emulate their performances!


‘Till next week, Bye for now!