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Sam Boal
defective blocks

European Parliament backs call for 'improved' mica scheme

The report calls for the scheme to be widened, with a reduction in red tape and a speeding up of the process.

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT’s Committee on Petitions has unanimously adopted a report calling for greater flexibility and reduced red tape around the mica redress scheme.

From 30 October to 1 November last, a delegation from the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions undertook a fact-finding visit to Donegal on the use of defective mica blocks in construction.

Its report arising from this scandal was today adopted by the European Parliament and will now be forwarded to local, regional and national authorities in Ireland and to the European Commission.

The mica scandal first made headlines in 2021 when homeowners saw concrete blocks used to build their homes and were beginning to crumble.

The blocks were made with a natural mineral named muscovite mica – the presence of mica absorbs moisture, weakens the concrete and causes the homes to crack and crumble.

The government introduced a scheme in November 2021 to support affected homeowners to remediate their dwelling and this scheme was enhanced last summer.

The Enhanced Defective Blocks Scheme allows affected homeowners in counties Clare, Donegal, Limerick, and Mayo to apply for a maximum grant of €420,000.

The five remedial options of the scheme range from an entire demolition of the home and a reconstruction in the same position, to demolishing and rebuilding the outer leaf of affected walls only and re-rendering them.

While the European Parliament report describes this scheme as “very ambitious”, it adds that it is “imperative that the scheme be improved” .

Such flexibilities include the need for “more sympathetic lending conditions such as zero-interest loans to provide bridging finance” and that arrangements should be made to support homeowners who are not in a position to advance some of the costs.

It also cited the need for a “wraparound support service that is properly resourced, easily accessible and operates regular office hours to aid affected homeowners”.

The report also calls for the scheme to be widened, with a reduction in red tape and a speeding up of the process and involvement of financial institutions.

It says the scheme should take “better account of the financial burden of all the costs”, such as the cost for new foundations, rental costs, and storage costs of furniture and other belongings.

Elsewhere, the report calls for people and entities to be held responsible for the mica scandal.

“Irish authorities should continue their efforts towards ensuring a thorough and transparent public enquiry and effective and timely legal proceedings,” said the report.

Meanwhile, the report states that the large-scale use of mica and “its severe health, financial and social consequences, contributes and exacerbates the ongoing housing crisis, which should be urgently tackled”.

It also called for the market surveillance system in Ireland to be “significantly enhanced” and to adopt a “stance that is proactive and persuasive, rather than reactive”.

‘Embrace the recommendations’

In a statement today, MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan said the report is “vindication of the tireless campaigning of affected homeowners and validation of the unprecedented situation they find themselves in”.

He added that the report “starkly sets out the severe failures at national level to address the issue”.

Flanagan has called on the government to “show courage and leadership and embrace the report’s recommendations”.

“Adequate funding must be put in place to finance the necessary remedial actions, this must be backed up by a sufficient level of human resources to implement a scheme that is fit for purpose and deliver full redress to affected homeowners in a timely fashion,” said Flanagan.

“This is not a bail out or compensation, this is an investment in people, in their well-being and in rural areas, which will generate a multiplier effect in the local economy far beyond the initial investment.”

MEP Maria Walsh meanwhile has called on the Government to “acknowledge the failings of the current scheme, and provide 100% redress for the families and homeowners affected”.

She added that the current mica redress scheme is not sufficient and needs to be reworked. 

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