Mica homeowners are told State will not guarantee full redress

Government to move ‘closer’ to covering 100% of costs as final bill heads ‘substatially’ above €1bn

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.

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The Government has told families affected by mica it will pay as close as possible to 100 per cent for remediation works to their homes but will not agree to an unlimited scheme offering full compensation.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Tuesday the current scheme to help rebuild houses affected by defective concrete blocks was predicted to cost close to €1 billion and any revised scheme for homeowners in Donegal, Mayo, Clare and other counties would cost more than that.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said last night the final bill for the State was likely to be “substantially more” than €1bn and potentially double that figure. He told RTÉ Prime Time his department was awaiting details from four local authorities - in Donegal, Mayo, Sligo and Clare - on the extent of the problem. While 5,000 homes were originally identified as affected, the final figure could be double this, he said.

The houses built with blocks containing mica have experienced serious defects that, in some cases, will mean they have to be completely rebuilt.

Mr O’Brien told representatives of the families on Tuesday the existing State compensation scheme – which offers 90 per cent of remediation costs, up to a maximum of €275,000 – will be expanded.

However, senior sources said that not putting a cap on the amounts payable would make it impossible to provide a budgetary figure, would have legal consequences and would not be best practice. There are fears the costs to the State could spiral upwards in the absence of control mechanisms.

The sources said the hope was to design a scheme that would allow compensation “towards 100 per cent” but with a cap in place.

Dublin protests

During a day when thousands of protesters took to the streets of Dublin demanding 100 per cent redress, Mr O’Brien offered representatives of the affected homeowners half the places on a 12-member working group that will examine changing the current scheme.

He said the group will look at the current caps on remediation costs, and the 10 per cent contribution currently expected of homeowners.

He also said it would examine the grounds for a public inquiry into the causes of the mica controversy. According to sources familiar with the offer, the group would report back by July 31st.

It is understood Mr O’Brien told the representatives it was best not to draw red lines on any issue.

Senior sources remain wary about committing to a scheme with open-ended costs or paying the total costs for remediating very expensive homes. However, they conceded the political reality is that the State will have to bear most of the costs. There are concerns the total could far exceed the €1 billion figure mentioned by the Taoiseach.

Mr Martin told the Dáil “everyone wants to do the right thing” but said the issue was complicated by the fact that different homeowners have different issues.

The Taoiseach said he had also asked the Attorney General to examine the role of block suppliers, designers and builders, banks and insurance companies as he had an issue with “people who have walked off the pitch”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, whose party has demanded 100 per cent compensation, said families had been failed by the State. “They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down,” she said.