Republic of Ireland news

Donegal families furious at government mica redress scheme for 'crumbling' houses

Walls built with blocks containing too much mica muscovite dust start to crumble when exposed to moisture
Seamus McKinney

THOUSANDS of Co Donegal families whose homes are falling apart due to defective building blocks have reacted furiously to a promised government scheme to deal with the problem.

An estimated 4,600 homes, most of which are in Donegal with others in Co Mayo, are believed to be at risk of collapse because foundations and blocks used to build them are crumbling. The houses were built since the 1980s with blocks containing “mica muscovite” mineral dust causing them to fall apart when exposed to moisture and frost.

The Mica Action Group (MAG) said the situation had placed families under intolerable stress and has claimed the crisis was a factor in the death by suicide of one home-owner who took his own life after he was forced to move his family out of their home and into rented accommodation last year.

Following visits to Donegal by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Irish government pledged to introduce a redress scheme. However, the plan, announced earlier this week by Donegal Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh, has fallen far short of what the families wanted.

Mr McHugh was joined by Community Development Minister Michael Ring in announcing that €20m (£17.4m) would be made available with householders to pick up 10 per cent of the cost of repairs.

Mr McHugh, who is also education minister, said: “It is about ensuring people feel secure and safe in the place where they have set down roots, where they are building a life, rearing a family and planning for their futures.”

Mr Ring said: “The scheme is an exceptional measure in response to an exceptional need. Some homeowners are in dire straits. And this is the confirmation that these people need that the Government is to pay 90 per cent of the cost of repairing affected homes.”

However campaigners have claimed the money promised falls short of what is needed. MAG member Chris Scott said the €20m would barely cover the fees needed to assess the houses.

“The Mica Action Group has just been informed and is still considering it but the families are furious. I've been talking to them and they feel so let down.

“Everything appeared to be in place to deal with the crisis and now the government offers something which is completely unacceptable and comes nowhere near addressing any of the issues. A lot of us think this is just an election stunt.”

Mr Scott said the cost of testing samples and planning repairs alone was expected to be in the region of €10,000 (£8,676) per house.

“I don't know how anybody can think that €20m will cover the problem. The families won't accept this,” he said.

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