Credit: Mica Redress

Shocking videos of crumbling houses as thousands in Donegal protest Mica scandal

Thousands of people across Donegal have protested what they see as the failure of the government to fully support families whose houses are literally crumbling apart because of the use of Mica material in construction.

Some said that the scheme put in place by the government might leave households whose houses were falling apart because of defective building materials with a cost of €100,000 – and that barriers to entry to the compensation scheme were also preventing poorer families and older people from even being able to apply for compensation as an average fee of €6000

Videos of  the extent of the damage faced by households have gone viral on social media. Many expressed shock at one video which showed the cracked and crumbling facade of a family home, with the exterior plaster seeming to come away in a man’s hand, as he commented that five young children had to leave the house as a result.

 

Protestors said that the issue was having a “catastrophic” effect on families, many of whom had to leave their homes for fear for their safety, and who have been in limbo as the issue of compensation has dragged on since at least 2018.

Reporter Seán O’Neil said the scandal was “currently affecting thousands of families” but was “getting largely ignored” by Irish national media and the Irish Government. “Thousands of homes that are literally falling to bits due to faulty bricks,” he said.

At the centre of the controversy is the use of a mineral called Mica – which, according to industry standards, should be used sparingly in the construction of concrete blocks. However, Mr O’Neil says that in the early 2000s the larger building companies in Donegal “started supplying what turned out to be defective blocks, manufactured from their quarry with too much Mica – a mineral that massively compromises concrete.”

The result can plainly be seen in the photos and videos posted by the people of Donegal over the weekend. The use of Mica is also a major issue in Mayo where a protest on the same issue also attracted crowds of people.

In Donegal, local man Paddy Diver has spearheaded a renewed campaign as anger grew over the number of families who were told that the damage caused by the defective material meant their homes would have to be rebuilt.

Mr Diver and others say that previous compensation schemes – for pyrite in Dublin homes for example – ensured that those families could recover 100% of the cost of repairing or rebuilding their homes, but that Donegal homeowners might be left with huge bills as they face the same crisis.

He says that the Mica Redress Scheme requires many homeowners to pay 10% of the final costs, and that the maximum grant for a full rebuild is €275,000, while some homeowners are being quoted up to €350,000 for full repair.

Protestor Gerry Hone told Highland Radio that thousands of families in Donegal were facing the prospect of losing their homes and were being asked to pay for a problem that was not of their making, and for which they had no responsibility. He described the redress scheme as a “cynical attempt” to make local people pay for remedial work.

He said the “90/10” scheme “does not exist”, and was constructed so as to exclude remedial work and other costs. “There’s a whole load of expenses that haven’t been included by the scheme,” he said, including outbuildings, storage and rental while the rebuild took place.

“If you were, under the scheme, to rebuild a €300,000 house, how that is translating in reality is that you have to raise €100,000 of your own money to pay for that house – that’s 66:33 not 90/10,” he claimed.

Mr Hone said that for the poorest people in the county the scheme fell at the first hurdle, because families needed to fork out at least €5000 to have their home tested and certified by an engineer before they could apply for compensation.

Older and retired people have said:

Concerns in Mayo and Donegal are also showing up further afield – with tests for the faulty construction material are increasing in Sligo, Limerick and Clare, none of which have their own schemes in place.

In Mayo, the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme is available to those who believe their property was damaged by materials with excessive amounts of mica or pyrite. In order to qualify for the scheme the building must be tested and certified at a cost of between €5,000 to €7,000.

However, with the overwhelming majority of properties requiring demolition and rebuilding, many owners are angered by a 90 per cent grant limit on costs capped at €275,000. That approach, they argue, does not take into account other expenses such as storing furniture and kitchens, or the cost of living elsewhere in the interim. Rental availability in Mayo is said to be extremely limited.

Paddy Diver said elderly people who were afraid to live in crumbling, cracking houses were being refused emergency accomodation and that a local school in Carndonagh was now unusable because of the use of Mica.

One woman, Mary O’Regan, told the Derry Journal that she was “heartbroken” after being told the house she had retired to in Donegal would need to be demolished because of the Mica problem.

“I’m an OAP, and we are the forgotten. I’m 70. I live on a State pension. I have no private funds and no financial institution is going to look at me. I couldn’t pay a mortgage, even if they gave me one. I have no earning power as I can’t get a job. I’ve been saving for the last four years for testing – I didn’t allow myself any luxuries. But I’ve been told I might need up to 50,000 euro. I just don’t have it,” she said.

Diver has also drawn attention to the fact that the company who provided the problematic concrete blocks were still building houses for the County Council, and he has called for a boycott on the builders.

He said he was moved to action when he found his daughter in tears because she realised the family would have to move out of their home due to the Mica problem.

 

 

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