MICA homes in Donegal : ‘If our house has to be tossed, where are we going to live?’
Chrissy and Alan McCandless were ‘delighted’ when they were granted planning permission fora house extension that would hugely benefit their eldest daughter, Ruby.
Ruby (15) has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, needs 24 hour care and uses a power wheelchair, so the extra space would have made a huge difference to the day to day life of her and her family.
However, the extension, along with other plans, is now in limbo, as their Gleneely home has been found to have mica. Chrissy said: “We wanted to make Ruby’s room bigger, as she doesn’t have much space, as well as put in a wet room and a carer’s room. It was to make it more accessible for her and to make life easier for her. We got the planning through, which was brilliant, but how can we start building on to a house that is full of mica?”
Chrissy, who also has Ronan (7) and Katie (2), told how the extension was needed ‘yesterday’ and she ‘doesn’t even want to think’ about when they might be able to build it.
The family moved into their home in July 2008. Last summer, they noticed cracking, but Chrissy said they debated over whether it was mica. By Halloween, they knew the answer as ‘so many’ cracks began to appear.
Testing in April confirmed it and the family is awaiting further results to determine their next step. If the house has to be demolished, they will not simply be able to move into a mobile home or other house, as wherever they live needs to be adapted for Ruby. “If our house has to be tossed, where are we going to live? Where is going to be suitable for our family needs? Where are we going to get another house that is accessible?”
Chrissy said she doesn’t believe the government has even considered how many families are facing these questions and told how a home is supposed to be a safe space.’ “I don’t think my case is worse than anyone else. But being a parent is stressful enough and that is part and parcel of becoming a parent. But, when you become a parent of a child with special needs it becomes extra stressful with everything that comes along. Our house is meant to be our safe place, where you can come back and just chill on a day to day basis - but at the minute its not. I don’t feel it and I find it hard to look at.
“I feel like, before Covid, when you went to Dublin or Letterkenny for appointments, which can be really tough, you’d think how you couldn’t wait to get home to the house. But now, you don’t have the security or feeling of safety anymore.”
Like many others, Chrissy talks about being one of the ‘lucky ones’ in that her home isn’t falling down as yet, but as issues with the scheme roll on, the cracks will begin to get worse. “The way the government is forcing some people to live is horrific,” she added.
“We need our energy and strength to care for Ruby and our other two and not use it to be fighting with government to get them to fix our houses that we already paid for.”
Chrissy told how she and Alan try not to speak about the issue too much in front of the children, as she believes they ‘wouldn’t sleep at night’ if they understood its implications. However, such is its prevalence in Inishowen, they are hearing about it at school and Ronan has spoken about cracks in the house. Chrissy told how she felt ‘physically sick’ when it occurred to her that Ruby’s overhead hoist is mounted to the walls. “Where are our government? You just want to tell them to wake up.”