Mica families to show ‘waking nightmare’ of living in crumbling homes

Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Homeowners and families in Co Donegal hit by the devastating effect of mica have vowed to show the world the “despair and waking nightmare” of living in a crumbling home.

Thousands of people are expected to take part in a protest in Dublin on Friday to mount further pressure on the Government to commit to a 100% redress scheme.

Campaigners want a scheme to help families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by mica, a mineral that can absorb water, leaving blocks to crack and crumble.

The Government has faced criticism for only offering 90% under the current scheme, leaving property owners with significant bills to repair or rebuild homes.

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

Mr Diver, a founding member of the 100% Redress group, will travel five hours from his home outside Carndonagh to the capital.

Eddie and Orlaith McNamee at their Mica affected home in Gleneely, Co Donegal Credit: Niall Carson/PA

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,” Mr Diver added.

“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.

“Children’s education is suffering. Donegal is like a third world country.

“My daughter Savannah, she was in her pink room, she loves the princess stuff, and there were cracks in her wall. We kept painting them up but it didn’t work.

The structural damage is seen in the mica-affected home of Ali Farren in Malin Head, Co Donegal Credit: Niall Carson/PA

“She came to us one night crying that she wanted out of her room and she never went back.

“Young children are being brought up with an insecure feeling that they are never safe.

“No one in Donegal is looking forward to Christmas, as it’s a living nightmare – nobody wants a Christmas because we are concerned someone is going to die.

“There’s no safe or secure place here any more as we don’t know when it’s going to crumble.

“On Friday we are going to show the world the devastation, waking nightmare and despair that we are going through. We are taking the kids out of school and driving five hours to show we need help.”

Protest organiser Paddy Diver outside his mica-affected home in Co Donegal Credit: Niall Carson/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.

A report found that the cost of a full compensation scheme could reach 3.2 billion euro.

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.”

A committee was warned the problems could affect homes across the country Credit: Niall Carson/PA

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 on Friday 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.”

Ali Farren moved in to his Donegal home in 2002 but after the winter of 2011, the family noticed cracks appearing on the exterior walls.

Mr Farren said the damage has accelerated over the last six months.

“We sit in our house and we can hear it cracking and it won’t take much more for the corner of the house to fall,” he added.

“We have 26% mica in our blocks, meaning we are in the worst category possible.

“We have a caravan on our site ready to move in to if the house falls or we can’t live in it anymore.

“You wake up to mica and you go to bed to it. I am 54 and me and my wife should be retiring soon and we should be unwinding, and the house should be perfect to live in for the next 40 years.

“At the moment we can’t plan for a future or things we would like to do.

“Our future is bleak.”