Conference hears ten community centres have defective blocks

TEN community centres in Donegal have defective blocks but committees are afraid to go public as it could render their facilities uninsurable, a conference has heard.

The stark figure came to light during a defective blocks convention held in the Clanree Hotel this week which looked at the scientific and social impacts of mica and other materials.

Ray community centre confirmed last summer that it had defective brickwork. But attendees at Tuesday’s conference heard that the problem is much more widespread.


Milford community worker Declan Meehan said a specific redress scheme was needed to assist and protect what are vital resources in terms of people’s physical and mental wellbeing.

This year marks a decade since the opening of Ray, a facility built following an enormous effort locally.

The committee cleared its debts last year only to be told the devastating news that it had defective blocks.

Mr Meehan described Ray as the “beating heart” of rural life and a “vital piece of infrastructure” for the surrounding towns of Rathmullan, Ramelton, Milford and Kerrykeel.

“It is very disheartening for the committee that built it and the community that uses it to come to the realisation that the centre potentially might have to be closed, that it might have to be rebuilt or that a centre that is ordinarily active seven days a week might be put out of action.”
Mr Meehan said if that happened the impact on the local community would be huge. But he also revealed the full scale of the difficulties facing the wider community sector across the county.

“Ten community centres have been identified so far. The majority don’t want to go public about admitting they have defective blocks. They are petrified that those community buildings are going to be closed due to a lack of insurance.”

Ray has already taken steps to address its situation. It is locked into an annual survey to ensure the building is structurally sound.


A programme of works is also in the pipeline to underpin the centre on a more permanent basis.

There is however no redress available for the necessary structural works.

But few other community buildings have been as quick to start tackling what is coming down the line.

“That is no fault of their own but with no pathway on how or why someone should do that, it is not an option that is readily available to them,” Declan Meehan said.

In anticipation of a worse case scenario – the building being put out of action – Ray has begun developing outdoor facilities. Over the past year a play area has been created alongside a sheltered area for classes or gatherings.

A community garden will also be built while funding has been secured for an astro-pitch and walking track.

Declan Meehan said, “It is a constant concern for the committee, a concern with regard to withdrawing services for the local community. Over the past two years with the pandemic we have seen very clearly the negative impact the closure of public facilities has on a community as a whole but on people’s mental health in particular.”

In terms of options, the response to date from the Department of Rural Development has been “less than satisfactory” said the community worker.

He said Ray had been signposted to the LEADER Project for funding. It though is currently between financial roll-outs and has also been reduced for the five years ahead.

A specific community building redress scheme to cover the cost of remedial work, one that does not interfere with mainstream community funding, would be ideal.

But as things stand the options are limited and the Department has yet to engage fully with the community sector.

With committees fully focused on making their individual buildings workable and safe, a collective campaign is still some way off.

One hope is that because many of the structures were built using European funds, redress could flow from Brussels.

But that is far from guaranteed.

Declan Meehan added, “The community buildings we have, they have provided a vital lifeline through Covid and coming out of Covid.

“We have noticed when they have not been there, we have suffered from them not being there. What we are concerned about is insurance will pull the pin and that these buildings will be put beyond use and will be lying empty.

“That is something we have to work towards and work against with funders and statutory bodies, to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

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