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Eddie and Orlaith McNamee at their Mica affected home in Gleneely, Co Donegal. PA
defective blocks

'It’s mental torture': Thousands expected at mica rally as homeowners take long road to Dublin

Some homeowners say they do not feel safe in their homes.

THOUSANDS OF HOMEOWNERS affected by the mica crisis are expected to descend on Dublin today to mount further pressure on the government as it considers its response.

The government has promised a compensation package that will be “one of the biggest ever” in the history of the State, with campaigners saying it is not enough unless every homeowner receives 100% compensation.

Last week, a report into homes affected by defective mica blocks found that a remediation scheme for impacted property owners could cost up to €3.2 billion.

A previous scheme to assist homeowners deal with crumbling blocks in their homes was acknowledged by the government as being insufficient last week’s report put forward options for an enhanced scheme. 

The report itself puts forward a number of potential improvements “for consideration” by the government but did not formally recommended them. 

The report did not put forward for consideration that homeowners who have to demolish and rebuild their homes would receive 100% compensation, something campaigners are adamant in seeking. 

Other remedial works, including the demolition of rebuilding of externals walls would receive a grant of 100%, subject to expenditure caps. 

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is set to examine the report with the intention of bringing a proposal to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

He told the Dáil this week that “nothing is off the table” in terms of compensation and that this included 100% compensation. 

Long road

Among those who will attend today’s protest is campaigner Paddy Diver, who will travel five hours from his home outside Carndonagh to the capital.

Diver says people do not feel safe in their homes, with some taking medication at night to help them sleep.

He explains that he started building his “dream home” 16 years ago, spending years travelling to England where he worked.

After eight years, the house was finished and his family moved in.

“It was always a dream of mine to have my own security of no debt and a home,” he told the PA news agency.

“Then years later, when I found out my house had mica, I was totally heartbroken.”

The blocks used to build the homes are understood to have come from local quarries. 

Campaigners have blamed a lack of building regulations and oversight of materials, but for families like the Divers it is too late to look at who is responsible.

The bottom line is the regulations are the problem. We can point and blame it at this quarry or that quarry, but someone has a job to do and it’s the government.

“People just want to live in their home, raise their children, but they never thought that they would be going to sleep at night thinking their house is going to collapse, and the weight of the slabs could crush you at any minute. Nobody should ever have to think like that.

“There are people taking sleeping tablets to get to sleep at night and people taking tablets to get them through the day.”

mica-homeowners Structural damage to a home in Malin Head, Co Donegal. PA PA

An estimated 5,000 homes in Co Donegal are affected by defective bricks, with thousands more understood to be in counties Sligo, Clare and Limerick.

In Gleneely, north Donegal, the McNamee family say they have no option but to demolish their home.

Eddie and Orlaith McNamee said it was their dream to build their own home and both worked two jobs to pay for it.

“The house was built 16 years ago after I asked my father and mother if we could have half an acre of land. They were overjoyed and so happy as they didn’t know whether I was going to leave or stay,” Mrs McNamee said.

We started in March 2004 and it was ready in April 2005. We got married the next month and we were so happy.

Mr McNamee said they started to notice problems with the property in 2010.

“I knew they were more than settling cracks, it was like nothing we had seen before,” he added.

“The cracks got wider and then we got involved in the mica group because we knew we had it. We have lost heart in the house, and don’t decorate it. There is no point in looking after it as we are looking at a complete demolition.”

Mrs McNamee said it has been devastating.

“The integrity of our house is crumbling before our eyes. We didn’t ask for this,” she added.

The first thing you do in the morning is open all the curtains and all you see are cracks, from morning to night. All we see is the rubble at the back door. It’s mental torture, there is no getting away from it.

“When we get away from the house, it’s like going to a spa, to get away and concentrate on something else.”

The McNamee family will also travel to Dublin to call for a full compensation scheme.

“The 100% redress is critical. If we don’t get it I will have to get two jobs and I will have to stop coaching the local football club. We will suffer,” Mr McNamee added.

“If we don’t we either have to kit out the shed to make it a temporary accommodation for us or get a mobile home on site.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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