Pyrite and mica: Thousands to protest today over defective homes

Owners of mica-impacted houses in Donegal, and Mayo to demonstrate at Dáil

The mica effected home of Tina and Harry Crumlish, in Culdaff, Co Donegal. Photograph:  Joe Dunne

The mica effected home of Tina and Harry Crumlish, in Culdaff, Co Donegal. Photograph: Joe Dunne

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Thousands of people are expected at a demonstration in Dublin on Tuesday by homeowners demanding the expansion of a redress scheme for property affected by pyrite and mica.

Protests over the issue, which has principally affected homes in counties Donegal and Mayo, have gathered momentum in recent weeks.

Demonstrators intend to gather outside both the temporary parliament at Dublin’s Convention Centre and later at Leinster House. About 45 bus loads of protesters from Co Donegal alone are expected.

“Judging by the [protests] that were on in Buncrana and Letterkenny at the end of May, we would be expecting a good crowd tomorrow,” said Loren Devers of the North Mayo Pyrite Group.

Ms Devers bought a defective home in 2015 and is eligible for a remediation scheme, but she is calling for this to cover 100 per cent of rebuilding works, as opposed to the 90 per cent currently available. Many of those affected say the extra costs associated with rebuilding their homes, not covered by the scheme, are crippling.

“I found out [about pyrite problems] in November, 2020. Even in my town there was nothing, no Facebook group, we were lost basically,” Ms Devers said, as she arrived in Dublin on Monday evening. “And now in the last seven or eight months we are up in Dublin [with the protest].”

Over the weekend, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien described the issue as an “absolute scourge”, and said defective concrete block manufacturers and insurance companies should contribute towards compensation. “I take this really seriously, these are people’s homes,” he said.

The Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme came into being last year and is available to those who believe their property has been damaged by materials with excessive amounts of mica or pyrite. In order to qualify, the building must be tested and certified at a cost of €5,000-€7,000. With the overwhelming majority of properties requiring a complete rebuild, many owners are angered by the 90 per cent grant limit on costs, capped at €275,000.

Speaking on Highland Radio on Monday, Mr O’Brien said he hoped to be in a position in the coming weeks to propose revisions to the scheme. He said he would continue to work with public representatives, action groups and local authorities on the issues.

Trade union Siptu, which says many of its members are among those affected, has backed the call for a 100 per cent-funded remediation programme.

“In Donegal, Mayo, Clare and other parts of Ireland more than 5,700 families are watching their homes disintegrate before their eyes,” said organiser Kevin McKinney. “This is due to the high level of mica contained in the concrete blocks used to construct these homes. Mica is a mineral that absorbs water and causes blocks to disintegrate and buildings to crumble.”

The controversy was among the topics addressed by the three party leaders in Government ahead of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. As of Monday evening, no decision had been taken on whether the Government would oppose the pending Sinn Féin private members’ motion on the issue, which supports a 100 per cent redress grant, or table a counter motion.