Homeowners in County Donegal are coming together to protest over defective concrete blocks used to build their houses and demanding they receive full compensation. On the Inishowen Peninsula, homes are cracking up, houses are ready to fall, and peoples’ dreams have turned to dust. Family homes, retirement homes and holiday homes are all affected. They have been built with defective blocks, where the concrete has been mixed with mica. The material makes the concrete weaker over time, and causes it to crumble. Over 4,000 buildings are affected in Donegal, many beyond repair. Oliver Lafferty and wife veronica live in one of those homes with their two children “On a windy night, one of those gable walls is going to fall out,” he claims. "This house has to be demolished. I am going to be out in the region of €100,000, where am I going to get that? I shouldn't have to. I can't afford it but I have to, I have nowhere to go.”
The Irish Government has opened a mica compensation scheme. Anne Owen and Eileen Doherty campaigned for years for it. But the full costs are not met. Many who applied have found they still cannot afford to repair or rebuild their homes and so campaigners are now demanding a 100% redress scheme. Ms Owens comments: “Holiday homeowners are exempt from the scheme and Donegal is full of people from Northern Ireland who have holiday homes here and why should they have their homes fall down round them?" Local man Paddy Diver has ignited uproar, spearheading a renewed campaign driven by social media.
“Every winter it just gets worse and worse and worse,” he says of the cracks in his home. “Everybody now cares about their neighbours, people with no mica are out helping, everybody sees the harm and anguish.” As a result, more and more people have come forward revealing their damaged homes. For over a week there have been impromptu protests and calls to boycott local company Cassidy brothers which manufactured and supplied many of the blocks. The firm says workers face intimidation and jobs are at risk by the boycott. But placards have been distributed and the campaigning continues. Simultaneous demonstrations will take place in Buncrana and Letterkenny on Saturday. Organisers insist they will be peaceful and covid compliant. They’ve been designed to send out a message.