Mica problems in homes getting more extensive, say councillors

Local Authority Members Association expects to have input to ‘enhanced’ redress scheme

Protesters from Donegal gathering at the Fianna Fáil think-in, in Cavan last week.  Photograph: Dominic McGrath/PA Wire

Protesters from Donegal gathering at the Fianna Fáil think-in, in Cavan last week. Photograph: Dominic McGrath/PA Wire

 

The problem of defective concrete blocks in homes along the west coast is deepening and is “more extensive than it was a year ago”, according to local county councillors.

More than 7,000 homes in Donegal and Mayo are estimated to be affected by faulty mica bricks which can put the buildings at risk of collapse.

Mica is a mineral that can absorb and store water, resulting in excessive amounts in building blocks which over time causes cracks and crumbling in blocks.

A 2018 redress scheme opened for applications in 2020 but required homeowners to pay 10 per cent of costs, unlike the pyrite scheme for Dublin homes which was 100 per cent Government-funded.

Clare councillor Shane Talty who campaigned at council level for the county to be included in the initial scheme said as the mica problem became more widely known it became more extensive as many home owners who had built extensions or had carried out repairs over the last decade were now realising “maybe that is what the problem was”.

Clare County Council has already sought money for pyrite remediation, saying it faces a “potentially very serious” problem. Pyrite is another mineral which can pose similar problems to mica, as when levels are too high the material can swell, causing cracks and defects.

The Local Authority Members Association, which acts on behalf of councillors around the country, said it expects to have an input into what Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said would be a “significantly enhanced” mica redress scheme.

Speaking on Tuesday Mr Varadkar said the current mica redress scheme was agreed in collaboration with “local action groups, local authorities and homeowner reps”. But he said the Government accepted it needed to enhance the current “defective concrete blocks scheme”.

Mr Varadkar said the “significantly enhanced scheme that is being developed at the moment “ would be decided on by Government by the end of the month. He said Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien was committed to working with the homeowners to find a resolution”.

However as the Government considers enhancing the scheme, the scope of the problem is now thought to be wider than initially thought, as councillors are now receiving approaches from others who think they might be affected.

Cllr Damien Ryan of Mayo – one of the counties most seriously affected by the Mica issue – said councillors were frequently first in line for homeowners wanting to discuss the scheme. He said they were concerned at the extent of the problem as defective concrete blocks had now been found in other counties and increasingly people were looking at defects in home extensions and repairs.

He said the the mica issue would “be discussed at the next meeting” of the Local Authority Members Association, of which he is joint public relations officer.

“I expect the next thing will be for a delegation to meet the Minister [for Housing],” he said. Chairman of the Local Authority Members’ Association Michael Anglim of Tipperary County Council said the association was prepared to “do all that we can”.

Defects in concrete products have now been found in homes, repairs and extensions in counties Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Clare and other counties are expected to join the list before the Government finalised the enhanced redress scheme in coming weeks.

However, a spokeswoman for the City and County Management Association which represents county managers said the issue was one for the Department of Housing and she declined to comment on how it might affect local authorities.

The spokeswoman who also represents the Local Government Management Agency offered the same response to enquiries put to that agency.