Mica homes in Donegal : ‘There are nights when it overwhelms you’

A 70-year-old Manorcunningham woman, whose home is so damaged by mica it will have to demolished, has said that older people and the elderly are ‘being left out and are the ‘forgotten’ of the mica scheme.

Friday, 21st May 2021, 4:07 pm
Mary O'Regan outside her mica damaged home in Mannorcunningham.
Mary O'Regan outside her mica damaged home in Mannorcunningham.

Mary O’Regan lives in a ‘beautiful’ four bedroom detached house - her ‘forever home.’

She adores the ‘beauty and peacefulness’ of where she lives.

But, that peace and her dreams for the future have been left shattered by the news that mica has ravaged the home that was to be her ‘journey’s end.’

Mary O'Regan's house will have to be demolished.

To add insult to injury, she has found that the Mica Redress Scheme will not cover the total costs of rebuilding her house and she may need to add up to E50,000 over and above the grant.

Mary told the Journal that, as she is 70, she has no ‘earning power’ as she cannot easily go out and get a job.

She cannot get a mortgage and has no private funds that will cover the cost. Mary lives on her State pension and saved whatever money she could over the last four years to gather enough to pay for the initial block testing.

She hoped the mica problem would just be in the outer leaf of the home, but it is much worse than that.

Mary told the Journal how she is ‘heartbroken,’ but a fire has also been ignited within her to highlight what she says are inequalities and issues faced by older mica homeowners.

“I’m an OAP and we are the forgotten. I was at a meeting a couple of years ago, where they said the redress scheme would not suit everyone. It would not be a ‘one size fits all.’ We, the OAPs, are going to be left out.

“I’m 70. I live on a State pension. I have no private funds and no financial institution is going to look at me. I couldn’t pay a mortgage, even if they gave me one. I have no earning power as I can’t get a job. I’ve been saving for the last four years for testing - I didn’t allow myself any luxuries. But I’ve been told I might need up to 50,000 euro. I just don’t have it.”

Mary stands with every homeowner and family affected by mica and said her heart goes out to the many younger people involved. However, she said the spotlight also needs to be shone on the difficulties being faced by those who are older. “This was my dream home. It is in a beautiful estate, with panoramic views. I love it here. I paid for my house, but now I have to pay fees, architects, planning permission and more. The families whose homes were affected by pyrite rightly got 100% redress. Why can’t we get that.”

Mary found out she had mica in her home in 2016, just five months after she was diagnosed with cancer.

“I thought I was looking at the outer leaf. Damien McKay, the engineer, who I have to say has been just fantastic, called me and told me my options. My daughter turned to me and said: ‘Do you know what he’s saying?’ I said : ‘Yes, it’s demolition.’ I was heartbroken. This was supposed to be my journey’s end. My forever home.”

Mary outlined how she, believing she would never move out of her home, bought ‘the best of stuff.’

“My friends would ask me why and I always told them that I was never going to do it again, so I might as well. My bedroom is at the end of the house. The gable wall on that side is the worst affected. The paper on that wall is starting to split. There are nights when it overwhelms you. I’m lying in bed wondering - ‘Am I going to end up out there, outside?’

Mary wants more focus put on the ‘forgotten people;’ those older people with no earning power. She believes the scheme should have been means tested but said a full, 100% redress scheme is the only way forward.

She will be attending one of the peaceful demonstrations to be held tomorrow, Saturday in Buncrana and Letterkenny. The demonstrations will call for a 100% redress scheme.

“This is horrible - knowing your house has to come down. I’m honestly wishing the next three years away. Even if they come with 100%, I still have to demolish my home. I have an accumulation of stuff. I’m going to have to find somewhere to put it all. I need to find somewhere else to live. I’m a home bird.

“This is where my family got together and we held celebrations and it has lots of memories. I’m going to have to demolish my beautiful home.

“I don’t know where I’m going to end up or if I’ll ever be back in my home again. If it does get rebuilt it will be on a wing and a prayer.”

Families affected by the defective blocks crisis will hold two simultaneous peaceful demonstrations in both Buncrana and Letterkenny this Saturday, May 22 at 2pm.

Families affected by the Pyrite issue in Mayo are also taking to the streets in Ballina, Co. Mayo at the same time on Saturday.

They are calling on the Irish government to grant them the same treatment as Pyrite families in the East of the Country to enable them to fix their homes.

The Buncrana demonstration are asking people who can attend to meet at the Shorefront, Buncrana from 1pm with the demonstration to start at 2pm.

The Letterkenny demonstration are asking people to meet at the Letterkenny Community Centre from 1pm with the demonstration to start at 2pm.

This is a peaceful protest and those attending are asked to wear masks and to comply with social distancing requirements.