Costs of repairing mica-damaged homes to escalate as councils seek public funding

Government under pressure to boost funding for remedial work in several counties

July 31st, 2021: Families affected by mica in Donegal are facing huge bills as talks with the Government over redress have stalled. Video: Enda O'Dowd

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The Government faces escalating costs for rebuilding and repairing homes damaged by faulty mica bricks and pyrite as more councils line up to seek public funding for the work.

Clare County Council has sought money for pyrite remediation, saying it faces a “potentially very serious” problem. Limerick City and County Council has told The Irish Times that it also will apply to join the scheme.

Such moves come as pressure builds on the Government to boost aid for thousands of homeowners in Donegal and Mayo whose homes have been damaged by defective mica bricks, which cause walls to crumble.

“As the number of entrants to the scheme increases, so too would the projected cost,” said a senior Government source, echoing the views of other Coalition figures.

An application from Sligo County Council is considered likely as it seeks an expert panel to investigate “significant” suspected pyrite cracking of walls in an unspecified number of homes. Pyrite is building mineral which can cause flooring to expand, damaging walls.

Although some Coalition figures believe Tipperary County Council may also apply because of damage to some homes there, a spokeswoman said it was “not aware” of such a move.

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Engineers

There is concern also in Government circles that aid might also be required for Fingal council in north Dublin. Engineers employed by the Department of Housing are examining “issues with cracking and external blockwork” on a number of Skerries homes built in 1990.

As the Government faces a renewed push to increase redress, a review group has been told to submit firm proposals to Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien by the end of September.

After the group’s original July 30th deadline was extended, Donegal and Mayo campaigners will submit their demands to a meeting on Friday. The number of affected homeowners in Donegal and Mayo is estimated at between 7,000 and 8,000 “and possibly more”, according to the Government source.

The initial number of potential Clare and Limerick claims is smaller by comparison but there is anxiety in the Coalition about the potential for rising costs as access to remediation is widened.

Despite making its application in July, Clare County Council said the number of damaged dwellings remains unclear. “However, there are approximately 100 properties at various stages of assessment/testing. Based on the experiences of the existing scheme, this number is likely to be higher.”

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The Limerick local authority said it expects to apply by the end of the year. “From speaking with the Limerick pyrite action group, they advise circa 15 households have contacted them,” a spokeswoman said. “All figures are preliminary at this stage.”

Homeowners from Donegal, Mayo and Clare at protests in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Tom Honan
Homeowners from Donegal, Mayo and Clare at protests in Dublin in June 2021. Photograph: Tom Honan

Michael Doherty, spokesman for the Donegal campaigners, declined to estimate a cost on the group’s demands but said the proposal embraced 100 per cent of home restoration costs.

“We have gone for what we think is very realistic remediation at a home level and very realistic at an Exchequer level, representing the true costs associated with restoring homes on a like-for-like basis,” Mr Doherty said.

The group also wants a 40-year guarantee of access to further redress if homes partially rebuilt incur further damage later, and redress for non-primary residence dwellings such as “small-time buy-to-lets” and holiday homes.