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A crumbling brick shown outside Leinster House at a mica redress protest in 2021 Rolling News

Delegation from the European Parliament arrives in Ireland to investigate the Mica scandal

MEPs from Spain, Estonia and Latvia will join a three-day mission to Donegal and Dublin.

DELEGATES FROM THE European Parliament have arrived in Ireland to investigate the defective concrete blocks crisis, or the Mica scandal.

Homeowners saw concrete blocks, that were used to build their homes and were made with a natural mineral named muscovite mica, begin to crumble. The issue hit headlines in 2021.

The presence of mica absorbs moisture, weakens the concrete and causes the homes to crack and crumble.

The Mica Redress Scheme aims to compensate homeowners whose houses have deteriorated due to defective concrete blocks used in their construction. The majority of the affected homes are located in Mayo and Donegal but there are other cases around the country. 

MEPs from Spain, Estonia and Latvia will join Irish counterparts on the three-day mission to Donegal and Dublin.

The visit serves as a follow-up to several petitions that were received and debated by the Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, highlighting the issue of defective mica blocks used in construction in Ireland.

Fine Gael’s Colm Markey, who is part of the delegation said it is “significant” that the delegation from the parliament is attending Ireland to investigate the crisis.

“The mission is primarily about gaining a comprehensive understanding of what transpired and ensuring that it does not happen again,” Markey said.

“The delegation will inspect the affected buildings, meet with homeowners who are impacted, engage with experts in the field and hold discussions with the Minister for Housing before submitting a comprehensive report to the European Commission.”

MEP Markey said they would also be discussing the Government’s Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme, which is a levy designed to provide funding for the redress scheme.

The levy came into effect on 1 September and initially came under fire as the scope of the levy was “flawed”, according to Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on finance Pearse Doherty.

“This is ultimately a tax on new homes which will push up building costs and house prices,” Doherty said last month.

Finance minister Michael McGrath later extended this scheme to exclude the value of pouring concrete used in precast products from the scope of the levy. 

McGrath said it “became clear” that the way the levy impacts on the sale of certain precast products has a “potentially negative impact on the export of these products and competition from suppliers in to the jurisdiction”.

The amendment is set to kick in on 1 January 2024 and there will be a refund scheme covering the interim up until the end of this year.

Markey said he understands the “significant challenges faced by the homeowners and it’s crucial that they have straightforward access to the Enhanced Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme”.

“The Government has already accepted a proposal to establish an Oversight Committee in the Department of Housing and I believe this group should meet urgently to address a number of issues relating to the fund,” he added.

The Midlands North-West MEP suggested the Committee include representatives from the Department, Government agencies, banks, the insurance sector, the construction industry and the MICA Redress Group so the group “can work together to ensure the smooth roll-out of the scheme”.

Markey called for banks to “step up” and offer  zero-interest loans to the affected homeowners.

Last month, The 100% Redress Party – a political party whose main objective is to campaign for the homeowners impacted by the issue – were granted permissions to run candidates in local and general elections after receiving the approval of Ireland’s Registrar of Political Parties.

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