Thousands of Donegal families living in crumbling homes

Families started to see huge cracks appearing on walls built with blocks containing Mica Muscovite mineral dust.
Seamus McKinney

THOUSANDS of Donegal families are living under intolerable stress because their homes are falling apart due to defective building blocks, a campaign group has claimed.

An estimated 5,000 homes are believed to be at risk of collapse as the foundations and blocks used to build them crumble. The homes were built since the 1980s with concrete blocks containing mica muscovite mineral dust.

When the block work is exposed to winter frost, wet and thaw, the cement crumbles at an alarming rate, leaving huge gaps in walls.

According to the Mica Action Group, the crisis was a factor in the death of a home-owner who took his own life in Inishowen earlier this year.

The man was forced to move his family out of their home into rented accommodation because of the problem.

Group treasurer, Phil McDaid said families and individuals were living under huge emotional and mental stress.

“People are being forced to move out of their homes and some people cannot afford to do that. Young families have taken out mortgages to build homes and now they cannot afford to move and have to live in houses which are falling apart. They can't sell their homes because they are now worthless.

“People have invested their life's savings in building dream homes and in building holiday homes in Donegal and now they are falling part. There is huge stress,” he said.

Families have reported filling holes in walls and ceilings with anything that comes to hand to keep out the wind and rain. Others say they are living in constant fear that a wall will fall in on their children, Mr McDaid said.

The first homes to record problems with the blocks containing mica were seen in the early 1980s. It was later found that the vast majority of the homes had been built with blocks supplied by the same firm.

Home owners now want the Irish government to intervene. Mr McDaid said the families wanted the government to provide funding to deal with the problem and to relocate families while the issue was being dealt with.

“There is a precedent. In Dublin, Laois and Offaly, the government provided help for people who had problems with defective sub floors. It's the same thing it is about defective building material,” he said.

The group has held a number of meetings with government ministers. Mr McDaid said they were hopeful that solutions could be found. He said Dublin housing minister, Damien English had assured the group that the government was close to developing a funding formula.

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