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Masonry firm at heart of crumbling home crisis speaks

One of the homeowners impacted by the crumbling home crisis examines their property.

THE quarry firm at the heart of Donegal’s defective block controversy says it has “sincere sympathy” with those whose homes have been affected and that it fully backs calls for a Government remediation scheme.

Cassidy Bros. broke its silence yesterday to address what it describes as the “misinformation” and “serious allegations” levelled at the company both in mainstream media and online.

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The 75-year-old family business’s decision to speak out comes in the same week that the Mica Action Group launched a petition calling on Donegal County Council to boycott Cassidy’s until a resolution to the ongoing issues are resolved. Less than 48 hours after going live the petition had attracted over 2,000 signatures.

The Mica Action Group was set up in 2014 to represent homeowners whose homes were built using defective blocks. It is estimated that as many as 5,000 families in Donegal have been impacted by the scandal which has left homes visibly crumbling and, in some cases, uninhabitable.

Speaking to the Donegal News, Cassidy Bros. said yesterday that it recognised the hardships the defective block work has placed on Donegal’s homeowners.

The company, which supplies up to 80 per-cent of all masonry blocks to north Donegal, added that its future was also being put at risk by the “continued circulation of misinformation”.

Cassidy Bros. says it has at all times complied with Government standards and regulations and that it has sought evidence from leading independent experts in concrete technology and geology. Those expert findings were included in a detailed submission by Cassidy Bros. last month to the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) public consultation process on its ‘assessment of damaged buildings incorporating concrete blocks containing certain deleterious materials’.

Cassidy Bros says that by establishing the facts through scientific methods, it hopes homeowners will finally get “evidenced-based reasons for deterioration in their properties”.

A spokesperson said, “Cassidy Bros fully recognises the genuine hardships suffered by people in Donegal whose properties are affected by damage to block work. We have listened intently to the sobering stories of families who have had to endure the stress of deterioration in their homes through no fault of their own. We have sincere sympathy for those whose properties have been affected.

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“Cassidy Bros was north Donegal’s largest masonry block supplier and we regret that our silence on this matter to date may have caused further distress. We apologise for not offering comment sooner due to constraints imposed as a result of a legal action.

“However we feel now that there is a greater importance to be placed on acknowledging the torment of the people affected.

“We wholeheartedly back homeowners in their calls for the implementation of an appropriate Government remediation scheme as soon as possible. They are to be commended for their continued and hard-fought campaign for redress.

“We acknowledge that homes exhibiting problems in Donegal were built using blocks purchased from a number of suppliers. We further acknowledge that similar problems in blockwork have been identified in other areas of Ireland where aggregate types used contain completely different rock constituents.

“We believe it is necessary to define the exact cause of the damage to homes in order to limit the spread of misinformation.”

The Mica Action Group has never publicly named Cassidy Bros as the supplier of the faulty blocks however an RTE Prime Time investigation aired in 2016 did focus in on the company.

Cassidy Bros continued, “Misinformation reported via social and mainstream media – particularly the serious allegations levelled at Cassidy Bros on RTE Prime Time – has had a serious impact on our 75-year-old family business. Inaccurate reporting and commentary continues to take its toll, most notably on our hard-working and dedicated employees. The continued circulation of misinformation jeopardises the very future of Cassidy Bros as a large-scale, local employer in Donegal.

“Investigations have confirmed that Cassidy Bros’ masonry blocks – tested at point of manufacture – have at all times, past and present, complied with all relevant Government standards, regulations and specifications.

 

“Cassidy Bros is a local, family-owned and run business which has been a proud part of the north Donegal community for generations. These issues were never envisaged by block manufacturers nor indeed reflected in the industry standards set down by the Government.”

Welcoming stringent new specifications on the strength of masonry blocks which it says will withstand Donegal’s climate, the firm added, “We welcome and embrace the recent introduction of regulations for increased block strength in line with expert recommendations. We further welcome that local architects are now specifying the use of blocks which are 2.6 times stronger than the previous Government standard and that experts are recommending the use of a render type which is appropriate for Donegal weather conditions.

“A number of recommendations, resulting from investigations by leading independent experts in concrete technology and geology were last month included in a public consultation submission by Cassidy Bros to the National Standards Authority of Ireland. The submission regarded the standard protocol – IS 465:201x – for the assessment, testing and categorisation of the damaged buildings in Donegal and elsewhere.

“The submission represented the first opportunity for Cassidy Bros to contribute to the important process of providing concerned homeowners with evidenced-based reasons for deterioration in their properties. We felt it was appropriate to follow up on the submission to the NSAI with this public statement.

“We believe establishing the facts by using appropriate scientific methods and adequate testing recommended by leading experts will allow for the establishment of a full and fair assessment of the damage to homes in Donegal,” the company added.

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Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland