Mica and pyrite protest: ‘People are not taking this lying down’

Hundreds of demonstrators seek greater support to cover repair costs of homes

Thousands of people demonstrated in Dublin city today, seeking full compensation for repairs to homes affected by mica. Under the current scheme, the State covers 90 per cent of repair costs, while homeowners must pay the remaining 10 per cent.

 

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets around Dublin’s Convention Centre on Tuesday to campaign for increased financial supports for homeowners affected by pyrite and mica.

Buses filled with people had travelled from Donegal and Mayo, as well as from other affected counties, in the morning to call for the Government’s defective concrete block scheme to cover 100 per cent of repair costs.

Yellow and green was the dominant colour among the crowd, as the bulk of homes affected by mica are in Co Donegal. Mayo jerseys were visible too, with many homes in the county cracking due to pyrite.

From left: Christie, Ruby and Alan McCandless from Inishowen.
From left: Christie, Ruby and Alan McCandless from Inishowen.

Alan McCandless, his wife Christie and their teenage daughter Ruby watched the speakers from the foot of the Samuel Beckett Bridge. The McCandless family are enduring “sleepless nights” knowing their Inishowen home, which they built in 2008, will need to be knocked to the ground and rebuilt, after testing positive for mica.

Mr McCandless said they had been preparing to extend their north Donegal property to make it accessible for 15-year-old Ruby, who is confined to a wheelchair.

“We cannot afford to fix the house, so we are hoping now that the Government can help us so we can get our home built to suit our daughter,” he said.

Delaying the extension makes Ruby’s life “a lot more difficult”, he added. “We really, really desperately need that extension but there is no point doing the work on the house until we get it [mica] sorted.”

Mr McCandless noted that their home does not yet look as bad as many of their neighbours’ houses.

“The cracks have only recently appeared, but it is getting worse all the time,” he said. “It will soon be that it is not safe to live in. It is scary.”

Mr McCandless believes the Government will have to adapt its redress scheme to meet demands of protesters.

“I don’t think they have any choice. If you look around you here today, people are not taking this lying down,” he said.

From left: Sisters Chloe (8) and Katie Devlin (6) who travelled down with their mother Evelyn.
From left: Sisters Chloe (8) and Katie Devlin (6) who travelled down with their mother Evelyn.

Holding up placards saying “Our mammy and daddy are heartbroken” and “Where will we live when our house is demolished?” were sisters eight-year-old Chloe and six-year-old Katie Devlin. The girls travelled four hours in the car with their mother Evelyn from Ramelton in Co Donegal to join the Dublin protest.

A few years after buying her home in 2013, Evelyn Devlin began to notice the cracks in the walls – a tell-tale signs of mica. With three young children, Ms Devlin and her husband are “heartbroken” that their house will need to be demolished. Although the Government scheme covers 90 per cent of the construction costs, up to nearly €250,000, Ms Devlin said the financial burden left on affected homeowners is still too much to bear.

“Where do we live when our house is being demolished? As two parents, we are worried sick that we will have nowhere to live and we have to pay double money for a house. It is going to cost us maybe up to €100,000,” she said.

The Devlins had been proud at the time of buying their family home, which they intended to later leave to their children.

“It is something that you dream of . . . obviously the way things are at the minute you would only be leaving them a burden,” she said.

Ms Devlin said the Government scheme, which would require them to store their windows, doors and cupboards to reinstall in the new build, leaves so many questions but no answers.

“The numbers here today looks like thousands to us and there are thousands affected all over Donegal . . . we hope that the Government can see how many hearts are broken over this.”

Mary Golden (78) has spotted a large crack across the gable end of her home in Co Donegal, but she has yet to pay the €5,000 to €7,000 it costs for a pyrite and mica test. This figure is reimbursed under the scheme if the test returns a positive result for the minerals.

“The test is very expensive. It is too much money . . . I couldn’t afford to pay that now, but I have to find the money eventually,” she said.

Ms Golden and her partner returned from Scotland in 2001 to build their home in Inishowen. Noting she is in retirement, Ms Golden said that by the time “this is sorted I could be 88. I need to know that what I am handing on to my family is a house fit to be lived in.”