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File photo PA
large scale protest

Thousands protest in Dublin calling for 100% redress for homeowners hit by Mica scandal

Defective building blocks containing the mineral have caused cracks to open up in thousands of homes.

LAST UPDATE | 15 Jun 2021

PROTESTERS AFFECTED BY the Mica concrete scandal have marched on the Convention Centre in Dublin, where the Dáil was sitting today, demanding the Government cover 100% of the costs associated with the crumbling homes. 

Defective building blocks containing the mineral Mica have caused cracks and fissures to open up in an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 homes primarily in Donegal and Mayo.

Thousands of protesters descended on the capital to voice their anger over the current plans in place. 

Eileen Doherty from the Mica Action Group (MAG) said that statements from Government in the last few weeks have been” disappointing and insulting”.

Doherty said a recurring theme increasingly being used by ministers and the Taoiseach himself is the idea the State cannot pick up the excessive cost of fixing the homes.

In response to this, Doherty said: “Shame on you, Government. Our homes and our lives are being affected by this. We will not accept this as an excuse. We did nothing wrong. We will ask that they do not insult us again by using this excuse.”

MAG are set to present the Taoiseach with a letter

Paddy Diver, campaigner and member of the MAG committee, said that if the Taoiseach does not accept the letters from MAG then they will be back.

“The next time we won’t be as peaceful,” he said. “We’ll block the M50 and we’ll block the port.”

The atmosphere today was determined and family driven, as many adults brought their children to march in the sunshine.

The protest began at the National Convention Centre, and crossed the river at Samuel Beckett Bridge, before moving down the quays and towards Leinster House.

Organisers put the turn out at 10,000 although The Journal could not confirm the figure independently. However, it was clear multiple thousands of people were in attendance.

The crowd was led by a car towing a trailer covered in signs that read “100% Redress for Donegal families affected by Mica” and one that said “our family houses are crumbling”.

Many protestors carried signs reading “Save My Home”, “Support Mica Homeowners”, “Please Understand We Are Not Safe” and “100% Redress No Less”.

Catríona McElhinney from Carndonagh in Inishowen owns one of the affected homes with her husband. 

She said: “We want to get 100% redress for everyone affected by Mica. We just want to get the same treatment as the Pyrite scheme.” 

“Some of us are having to find €100k to rebuild their home. It’s not a workable scheme – what we want is something that is in parity with the pyrite scheme.”

Campaigners criticised the scheme for an upfront charge of €5,000 for access, failing to provide alternative accommodation and covering 90% of costs, compared to 100% covered by the Pyrite scheme, which also involved faulty materials resulting in damage to homes.

Image from iOS (6) Oliver and Veronica Lafferty. Niamh Quinlan Niamh Quinlan

Oliver and Veronica Lafferty from Carndonagh first realised their home was crumbling in 2005. They’re currently moving into a mobile home for their safety.

“It was 2011 before we knew what the problem was. We went to every politician, every quarry,” Oliver said.

Veronica added: “I have mice rolling up the walls in the cavities of the house. The mice are coming in and I can hear them running through my house. I can put my hands into the walls. Mentally just not coping. We have a mobile on our back lawn. It’s going to cost us €150,000. We don’t have that money.”

What is Mica?

Micas are a group of minerals that are found in rock, including rock taken from quarries.
In this case, muscovite mica is contained in the building blocks used to construct the houses in the northeast of the country. 

According to the 2017 Mica Action Group and the Report of the Expert Panel on Concrete Blocks, Mica has the ability to absorb and store water and results in a disproportionate amount of water in the blocks. 

Estimates suggest that the presence of 1% muscovite mica causes a reduction of the concrete strength by approximately 5% and it has relatively poor bond strength with cement paste. The report stated that the presence of higher levels of moisture also cause issues during cold winters as the blocks are susceptible to loss of integrity in freeze-thaw conditions.

The presence of this mineral has caused large cracks and fissures to opens up in more than 5,000 homes, with the majority of those houses in Donegal. Some homeowners have already had to move out of their houses because they have been deemed unsafe to live in due to the structural damage.

The campaign groups met with Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien following on from the protests.

Following the meeting  a spokeswoman for the minister said: “Minister O’Brien met with representatives of the mica action group today.

“He accepted a letter on behalf of the group outlining concerns with the current Defective Concrete Block Scheme.

“He assured them that Government are committed to providing a workable resolution to the issues which have arisen.

“The minister has proposed establishing a focused, time-bound working group, between department officials, Mica action group representatives from Mayo and Donegal and local authority representatives.”

“The working group would identify and address outstanding issues with the operation of the scheme.

“The group would report back to the minister by July 31st with potential actions which he would then bring to Government.”

Cabinet agreed today not to oppose a Sinn Féin private member’s motion on the Mica.

It agreed to continue to work with local authorities and action groups about this issue, and said that the Programme for Government sets out the defective construction materials as a priority. A review of the position received from the Donegal MICA Action Group is to be considered by Government.

With additional reporting from Michelle Hennessy.

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