Government to discuss mica plight on eve of Dublin protest

Coalition expected to oppose a Sinn Féin motion on mica in Dáil this week

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Government leaders are to discuss the plight of thousands of homeowners whose houses are crumbling because of defective concrete blocks ahead of a demonstration planned for Dublin.

About 45 bus loads of protesters from Co Donegal, whose homes were built with blocks containing the substance mica, are among those expected to turn out at a rally at Dublin’s Convention Centre on Tuesday before marching on Leinster House.

The families are demanding a 100 per cent redress scheme to help them repair or rebuild their houses, which is predicted would cost the State well over €1 billion.

Campaigners say a current grant scheme, operated by local authorities and which forces homeowners to finance 10 per cent of the cost of repairs as well as other fit-out costs, is out of most people’s reach.

The Government estimates up to 6,000 homes are impacted, mainly in Co Donegal, but also in counties Mayo, Sligo and Clare. But campaigners said many more buildings are affected, including hospitals, schools and social housing.

Meeting with some affected families in Co Donegal on Thursday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin described their plight as “absolutely shocking” and pledged to discuss with the Attorney General what could be done.

A Government source said Coalition party leaders were expected to discuss the issue at a pre-Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, on the eve of the demonstration.

It is understood officials are examining a scheme which would allow for 100 per cent compensation, with the amount capped.

However, it is expected the Government will oppose a Sinn Féin motion in the Dáil this week calling for the same, including the costs of remediation, storage and temporary accommodation.

Donegal Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said families saved up for years to buy their homes only to find the houses crumbling around them.

“I have been shocked by the stories families have shared with me about the huge stress and pressure this crisis has placed on them,” he said.

“They have been desperately asking for help, but the Government has walked away.

“These families deserve 100 per cent redress.”

Discussions are continuing between the Department of Housing and the Department of Public Expenditure over revisions to the existing scheme which could see affected homeowners receive more compensation.

However, no new proposals will be brought to Cabinet by the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien this week.