Mica crisis blighting lives of students and teachers, TUI conference hears

Donegal teachers tell of ‘waking nightmare’ of homes that are ‘draughty, damp, depressing and above all dangerous

The shadow of Mica building defects is looming over schoolchildren living in affected areas of Co Donegal and making some students reconsider if or where they will go to college due to their families facing financial pressures, delegates at the Teachers’ Union of Ireland conference have heard.

Two union members who have first-hand experience of living in houses that are crumbling due to defective building materials told their colleagues of the impact that the legacy of defective building materials is causing for them and their pupils.

Siobhán McCullagh and Áine Gallagher, teachers at Crana College in Buncrana, highlighted the “waking nightmare” they and many others on the Inishowen peninsula are enduring as they struggle to get “draughty, damp, depressing and above all dangerous” homes rebuilt.

The teachers said Mica-related problems are ever-present in school either because the adults are preoccupied with them or because of the constant awareness that pupils have to be protected from the upset even the mention of Mica can cause.


“Mica is everywhere. It’s the main topic of every conversation,” said Ms McCullagh. “There is no getting away from it. There is not an English essay that doesn’t have a mention of Mica somewhere while our language teachers cannot ask their students to describe their home because it causes so much stress.

“The Mica catastrophe is always at the forefront whenever humanitarian issues come up and CSPE. It’s on our children’s lips. It’s on our staff lips ... there’s no escaping it.”

In homes across the county, Ms McCullagh said, decisions are being made that school leavers will not take up the third-level courses they want to do because addressing the Mica issue requires all of the available money in their homes.

“Students are choosing not to go to college to avoid extra expense on their families so their parents can rebuild their family homes. Can you just imagine the heartache a parent goes through between choosing whether to build their family home again or send their child to college? It’s not a decision any parents should have to make.”

Ms Gallagher bought her house in 2015 and says “the heartache, stress and anxiety never stops, as you sit on a daily basis where cracks are growing, drafts are impossible to stop and your family home crumbles around you”.

“My home,” she said, “is meant to be my safe haven where I come home from a long day of teaching but homes are a living hell not a haven.

“At a parent-teacher meeting a parent sat in front of me and voiced her concerns over her child’s wellbeing as they move from their family home into unsuitable accommodation. Here I am trying to console this parent while all the time knowing that this is my own fate.”

Both spoke of problems finding alternative accommodation, in a county that already has a housing shortage, should they qualify for the Government redress scheme, come up with the upfront funding they require and start a rebuild.

Their Donegal branch colleague Joe Higgins said more than a quarter of the children in his class live in affected houses and his own child will not stay over with his best friend because the family’s home is so badly affected.

He said the banking crisis had been addressed with a “socialised solution” and the same was required now. A motion supporting all those affected by the issue was passed unanimously.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times