Mica homes in Donegal : ‘We spent a lot of time and put a lot of love into our home’

Ali Farren has a positive outlook on life, but admits that living in a mica affected home that has to be rebuilt is ‘soul destroying.’

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 8:03 am
Ali Farren pictured outside his home. Ali supports the campaign for 100% redress for people affected by MICA.

The Malin Head man spoke to the Journal about his experience as one of thousands of homeowners in Donegal facing an uncertain reality as they navigate through a scheme those affected have deemed ‘not fit for purpose.’

As someone who always promotes his local area and welcomes the many tourists who love it just as much as he does, Ali also highlighted the issue of those with holiday homes that are cracking and decaying due to mica.

These people, many of them from Derry, are not entitled to any recompense through the Mica defective blocks scheme, as it only applies to primary homes.

Ali Farren points to the damage caused by MICA.

This is an issue that is being consistently highlighted by the Mica Action Group to government and something Ali describes as ‘very unfair.’

“I have many friends who have built holiday homes here. This was an investment for them. They have invested in the local area, built their house, paid VAT and Tax to government, connected to services, employed local people in construction and they’re not entitled to the scheme. It’s very unfair.”

The block work of Ali and his wife Mairead’s home was constructed in 2002 and they moved into it in 2003.

They set about making it into the perfect family home that they would make memories in and where they’d spend the rest of their days.

Ali told how they were ‘so proud’ of their house and ‘worked hard at it.’

Following the harsh winters of 2010/2011, the couple noticed cracks in the walls.

They weren’t too concerned at first and tried to fix it.

“We picked and we plastered and did works on it hoping they would hold. But they didn’t.”

It soon became clear that the house was a victim of mica and the cracks continued to get worse.

Ali told how you can now even ‘hear the cracking.’

His engineer has recommended demolition.

In a reflection of how prevalent mica is in homes across Inishowen and beyond, Ali and Mairead are not the only members of their family impacted.

Ali’s sister’s home also has mica, as has his mother and father’s retirement home.

“My father and mother worked all their lives and they’ve this in their retirement.

“Nobody wants to toss a house. We spent a lot of time and put a lot of love into our home. You think you’ve got your house right and invested money in it. The house didn’t want for anything. It’s soul destroying.”

Ali, who is 54, is keen to stress that his experience is not unique and, in keeping with his positive mindset, said he reminds himself that he has his family and everyone has their health.

But, it is looking like it’s going to cost the couple more money to build their house a second time than it did when they first built it.

Homeowners have found that not only do they have to pay costs above and beyond the grant cap, costs of materials have skyrocketed due to issues such as Brexit and Covid 19, among others.

“We worked hard on the house. And it’s somewhere we want our children to come back to and hopefully grandchildren in the future. And you want to pass on something substantial to your children.

“You wonder will the banks, at this stage, give us a mortgage? We bailed them out years ago and I haven’t seen anything about them bailing us out.”

Ali outlined how there are a ‘list of questions’ that need to be answered in relation to the mica defective blocks scheme.

“I’m on the pathway and I’m waiting to hear back from the council, but the dogs on the street can see the amount of mica in my home. I’m 54, I still have years of work ahead of me, but it’s not right that I have to rebuild my home again.

“It’s really not fair on those who are retired. Where does the money come from for them? And you can’t just ignore it. It’s not going to get better on its own. You can try and hide it, but it’s not going to go away. I hope they amend the scheme. There are a lot of large houses and present building costs and materials are sky rocketing. There are a lot of things the government could do and change at the stroke of a pen. It’s not fit for purpose at the minute.”