Donegal house defective block scandal sees emergency action plan to repair or replace announced

  • 12/10/2018
Donegal house defective block scandal sees emergency action plan to repair or replace announced
The Irish government is supporting thousands of home owners in Donegal affected by defective blocks and has announced a new repair or replace scheme.

Work on properties is expected to get underway in early 2019 but first new legislation must be created to enable every step to be taken.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave his full support to the families with homes built with defective blocks following an emotional visit to them in Co Donegal on September 11.

He travelled to Buncrana to assess the situation for himself following a hard-hitting campaign in the Irish Mirror, and while inside one crumbling home, he told the householders: This has to be fixed... its only fair.

And on Tuesday just before 1pm, the government announced the cabinets commitment to a redress scheme with work to start immediately on the assessment plan.

Eileen Doherty, who helps run the MICA Action Group from Co Donegal, said: We are beyond delighted. Weve been battling for five years to have this situation and our needs recognised. Today the cabinet has signed off on an agreement to get the redress scheme up and running and work on the design of the scheme starts right now.

No cap has been placed on the expenditure and it is estimated that with 5,000 homes in Donegal and more in Co Mayo affected, the final bill could be in the billions. It is believed homes in Derry are also affected by defective blocks sourced in Donegal.

Some families affected by the scandal have tried to patch the damage on their properties only to watch it fall apart.

Others have had to leave after their homes after they were condemned as unsafe.

Many more with no choice to leave, are living surrounded by scaffolding and in fear of their home collapsing with them inside.

And tragically, for one family, the stress and despair of living with MICA defective blocks in their home, proved so devastating that it lead to suicide.

Eileen said: Today while we feel so glad to have this news we are also very sad because of the devastation so many families have been living through. Our hearts have been utterly broken, families have been pulled apart and that is not something that can be repaired or rebuilt with bricks and mortar.

Leo Varadkar was deeply moved by what he witnessed and heard in Buncrana. He had read the reports in the Irish Mirror and then saw first hand the distressing, devastating effect on families living in homes that are literally crumbling around us.

Today we can say that our voices have been heard at last. Now the work has to start to make sure the redress scheme is effective and benefits the right people.

More than 900 people have formally registered with the MICA Action Group but thousands more have not.

Eileen explained: Defective blocks have been used in the construction of thousands of homes in Co Donegal and Co Mayo and the homes are literally falling apart. Many homeowners, around 4,000, have not yet registered but we know they are out there.

"The moment the house is registered as being affected by MICA it becomes worthless, the house insurance is invalidated and no money can be raised against the house for temporary repairs but the mortgage still needs to be paid, so people have been afraid of where that would leave them.

Permanent family homes on heritage land, holiday homes built by locals for retirement funds, schools, libraries and other public buildings have been affected by defective blocks.

Families have been put out of their homes because theyve been unsafe, families have split up, people have been devastated and left to fend for themselves. Some have managed, others have not and we are just hanging on by a thread.

Leo Varadkar wanted to know everything from how many people had registered with us to how many people we believed were affected but had not yet registered.

He wanted to know how much money we thought it would take to fix the situation and he assured us that any company who sold the defective blocks in the first place would not benefit from the new scheme to repair and rebuild.

The announcement today has given us hope. Mr Varadkar told us that it was only fair that we were helped and today the Cabinet has agreed to act now. It has been an immense struggle but we have a start and we will keep going until everyone has a safe home they can live in again.

Minister Joe McHugh announced that the Government signed off on a scheme to assess and repair Mica affected homes.

The Government Chief Whip was joined at a Cabinet meeting in Government Buildings, Dublin by Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy who reported to ministerial colleagues on the potential scale of a programme to examine homes and to begin work.

Mr McHugh said: I have always been committed to this cause and I am delighted that we have now secured Cabinet approval for a scheme.

In early September An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stood in the kitchen of a Mica-affected family home near Buncrana and told them that a state-funded repair scheme was only fair.

Todays decision at Cabinet is living up to that commitment. Work will start immediately on the design of the scheme.

This has been a long road for the many families living with this scandal and we hope now that this gives them some peace of mind and assurance that we are aiming to begin work early next year.

Mr McHugh said further details of the scheme are to be confirmed by Eoghan Murphy and Minister for Housing and Urban Development Damien English in the coming weeks.

Mr McHugh added: I would like to thank them for their focus on this. And I want to thank the family who opened their doors to An Taoiseach and myself and poured out their hearts over the impact the crisis has had on them.

A special word must also go to Eileen Doherty and Ann Owens of the Mica Action Group, and other members who have shared their stories and opened their doors as they sought our support. The people affected by this scandal have shown immense patience, determination and fortitude in working with us to secure this resolution.

It was a local Fine Gael councillor Bernard McGuinness who first brought this crisis to public attention. He sat up and took notice before others.

I also want to acknowledge the support of Minister for Community and Rural Development Michael Ring as we raised this issue across Government.

Senator Paudie Coffey was also instrumental in pursuing this. As minister in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government he set up the expert group to investigate Mica issues in Donegal and Mayo."

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