Mica-affected homeowners set out ‘final’ position for better redress

Campaigners from Donegal and Mayo call for 100% compensation scheme

Maureen Irvine, of Malin, Inishowen with brothers Ali, Hugh and John Farren, of Malinhead, Co Donegal (L-R), protesting outside Leinster House, in support of an improved  mica redress scheme. Photograph: Conor Ó Mearain/Collins

Maureen Irvine, of Malin, Inishowen with brothers Ali, Hugh and John Farren, of Malinhead, Co Donegal (L-R), protesting outside Leinster House, in support of an improved mica redress scheme. Photograph: Conor Ó Mearain/Collins

 

Representatives of Donegal and Mayo homeowners affected by defective mica bricks have made a “final” demand for 100 per cent redress, a 40-year State guarantee and a public inquiry.

The family representatives for the owners of at least 5,000 affected homes set out their “final position” for an enhanced redress scheme during a virtual meeting with Department of Housing officials after rejecting the existing 90 per cent scheme as falling well short.

The defective bricks made of mica – a mineral that can absorb water leading to cracks and crumbling in blocks – were used in the construction of homes in Donegal and other counties.

At least another 700 homes in Mayo could be affected and the defective bricks may also have been used to build homes in counties Sligo, Clare and Limerick, extending the cost of any redress scheme. The defective blocks were also used in public buildings such as schools and community centres.

The Government has come under increasing pressure to improve the level of financial support for thousands of owners whose homes are falling apart due to the faulty bricks.

In its presentation to the department, the families said the overwhelming majority of affected homes – about 54 per cent – are 232-279sq m (2,500-3,000sq ft) in size and that the existing redress scheme only covers between 58 and 67 per cent of repair and rebuild costs.

The cost of rebuilding a 232sq m home is estimated at €367,000.

The families have argued that based on their estimates only 19 per cent of affected families live in homes where the redress scheme covers the proposed 90 per cent of overall costs.

“We really feel as if we have come to the end of the road in terms of negotiation. This is our final position,” said Eileen Doherty, a representative of the mica redress campaigners.

The working group set up to consider the impact of the defective blocks on homeowners and the adequacy of the redress scheme is due to report back to the Minister by the end of the month.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue, a Fianna Fáil TD for Donegal, said that he “absolutely believes” that homeowners should get 100 per redress. Their lives had been “blighted for many years” and they suffer “daily and nightly stress” for something that is “not their fault”, he said.

While acknowledging that compensation from the State would result in “undoubtedly massive costs”, Mr McConalogue said he firmly believes homeowners “need to have full assistance”.

The campaigners have warned of further protests in Dublin, dwarfing the last demonstration in the city in June, if they fail to secure the redress they need to rebuild their homes.

“If they don’t come back 100 per cent, we are organising a protest for October 8th. It is going to be the biggest protest that Dublin has ever seen,” said campaigner Paddy Diver.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said that “a better redress scheme is needed”.

The cost of an improved redress scheme could well exceed €1.5 billion. A spokesman for the Department of Housing declined to comment on the working group’s meeting with the Donegal campaigners or the potential cost of a revamped scheme.

“Minister [Darragh] O’Brien has indicated a number of times that everything is still up for discussion,” the spokesman said, though he added that any changes to the scheme would require “input” from the Attorney General and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and brought before Government.