HOMEOWNERS affected by the devastating impact of pyrite are celebrating after the Government announced a €10m fund to help repair at least 1,000 properties.
However, the final bill is likely to reach €50m and the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab.
Neither the quarries which supplied the product, nor the developers who built the homes, are likely to be hit with the bill.
Details of a pyrite remediation scheme were announced by Environment Minister Phil Hogan yesterday with €10m to be provided now, and more funding from next year.
The move comes despite a report from a high-level group saying the State should not be responsible for funding the works, which are needed in housing estates in Fingal, Offaly, Meath, Kildare and Dublin City.
Pyrite, known as fool's gold, is a mineral which can contract and cause structural damage to properties.
As many as 12,500 homes are believed to be affected, as well as a number of schools, but 1,000 are believed to require urgent works. Each home will cost some €50,000 to repair.
Mr Hogan said the scheme would be implemented by the Pyrite Resolution Board, and that the funding was being put in place despite the State being neither "culpable nor liable" for the problem.
A plan to impose a levy on the construction and quarrying industries could not go ahead following legal advice, he said.
"Even though the State is not legally responsible, we are slowly but surely putting people first and finding solutions to the very serious problems they have been forced to endure through no fault of their own."
Peter Lewis, from the Pyrite Action Group, welcomed news that funding would be available, but insisted that homeowners who paid to have works completed already should also receive compensation.
"It's taken an awful long time, and we're delighted," he said.
"We are disappointed in relation to homeowners who have re-mortgaged their homes or used up their savings to fix their homes. The fact they are not included in the funds is something that has to be pursued."
Chairman of the Pyrite Resolution Board, John O'Connor, said he hoped to shortly begin accepting applications.
The works would take about three months to complete, and homeowners would have to move out of the properties. Some €3,000 would be provided to pay alternative accommodation costs, and a further €2,500 to help pay removal fees.
"Hopefully when this programme is in place the houses will be in the condition they should have been at the start," he said.
Some 700 people have registered an interest in having the works completed. Up to 10,000 more properties are believed to be "at risk".
Mr Hogan said that homeowners who have already paid for repair works to be carried out would not be compensated.
When pyrite contracts, it can result in cracks ranging from a few centimetres to metres appearing on walls. The foundations of the property can also rise, resulting in tiles lifting.