‘Mammoth result’ for Mica campaign but there’s ‘still work to do,’ says group

The Mica Action Group has pledged to “keep pressure on government until every last home is fixed.”

Monday, 20th May 2019, 10:36 am
Updated Monday, 20th May 2019, 11:36 am
Hundreds of people have been affected by Mica, as evidenced by the strong attendance at one of their public meetings in 2017.

The group’s campaign reached a “significant milestone” last following confirmation that E20 million euro has been pledged by government for the Mica Redress Scheme for 2019.

The finer details of the scheme have yet to be confirmed and experts from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government will travel to Donegal next week for discussions with Donegal County Council.

What is known is that homeowners will have to pay 10% towards the cost of repairs, something which has caused disappointment among many. It is also understood the scheme only applies to primary residences and those with holiday homes will not qualify. The E20million figure is for 2019, with the understanding that further funding will be allocated in budgets year-on-year.

It has been stressed that MAG must play a key role in any discussions and the prioritisation of works on homes.

Ann Owens, the MAG chair, said the organisation had “asked and had been assured that we will be included in this prioritisation process and in discussions around the scheme as a whole, to ensure that those most in need are dealt with first.”

Ms Owens said a ‘mammoth feat’ had been accomplished and paid tribute to families for their support in the campaign.

She added: “There is still work to do to in order to keep pressure on government until every last home is fixed and that is exactly what we intend to do.

Members of the Mica Action Group say it has been “humbled to have stood shoulder to shoulder with so many families on this challenging journey,” following confirmation the government is to fund 90% of the cost of repairs to homes.

After a lengthy and sometimes emotional campaign, confirmation of the details of the Mica Redress Scheme were finally confirmed on Tuesday by Minister Joe McHugh and Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring.

While some of the fine details of the scheme have yet to be confirmed, €20million has been pledged this year with the worst-hit homes to be fixed first. It is understood that further monies will be allocated in next year’s budget.

While the news was much welcomed, there has been some disappointment and concern expressed that homeowners will have to pay 10% of the cost of repairs themselves, something those affected by pyrite elsewhere in the country were not required to do.

Further details that have emerged suggest that, in line with the pyrite scheme, the repair plan only applies to primary residents and not holiday homes. It has not yet been confirmed if homeowners who have already undertaken repair works will be compensated.

A team of Senior Civil Servants will travel to Donegal soon to begin discussions with Donegal County Council - who will roll out the scheme - in order to finalise details and to make them public (i.e. the application process.

The result of the Mica campaign has been hailed as a stunning result for a small group from Donegal in persuading government to step in, following years of heartbreak for homeowners affected by defective blocks.

Ann Owens, MAG chairperson, said the scheme “enables families affected by defective blocks, to now start the process of fixing their homes and moving on with their lives.”

She added: “We, as a group and along with the many homeowners who have joined us in this campaign were finally taken seriously at the highest levels of government. We should all take a minute and consider the mammoth feat that has been accomplished.

“There are aspects of this announcement that are disappointing; for example the fact that only E20million was allocated to this huge issue across Donegal and Mayo for this year. However, having sought clarity from government, we have been given an absolute assurance that this signals a genuine commitment which will be evident through a significant increase in the budget year-on-year from here on in, so that the number of homes fixed can be significantly ramped up.”

She added that while MAG is disappointed and frustrated that homeowners will have to contribute 10% of costs, an NIL household charge would have required new legislation, which would have taken at least a year to “bring to the statute books and in our opinion may have put this very scheme at risk.”

She said that due to the progressive nature of the issue, “many homeowners simply do not have the luxury of time to wait.”

She added: “However, we intend to continue to push for supports (from a number of potential sources) to be made available to help those in most need to be able to fix their home.”

Ms Owens paid tribute to the “dignity and determination of the families who have struggled and strived over many years to reach this momentous decision.”

Eileen Doherty of MAG said while there was some disappointment, the allocation of 90% represented a “huge, unprecedented achievement.” She stressed that MAG has asked to be included in the discussions around the scheme to ensure those most in need are prioritised. She outlined how MAG had worked with families and represent a “balanced view” in the issue. Ms Doherty thanked all those who have helped in the campaign and added that the group is not political. However, she said that the public representatives who had been most prolific “in terms of work” on the issue were Colrs Mickey Doherty and Martin McDermott and urged people to “return the councillors who are going to work for us on the council going forward.”

Ms. Doherty said it was “unfortunate to say the least” that it is unlikely holiday home owners will be given redress and added how, while this decision is in line with the Pyrite Scheme, “these people maybe used their life savings and because of useless product they are left with nothing.”

Eileen and Ann both said that while the focus has been on the “mammoth task” of getting the redress scheme “over the line,” there is still a lot of work to do.”

Ann said: ““I think it is clear that whilst this is a significant milestone in the campaign, we are not there yet. There is still work to do to in order to keep pressure on government until every last home is fixed and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Bernard McGuinness said it was important that a plan is put in place by Donegal County Council to aid homeowners who do not have the financial means to pay the 10% contribution.

He welcomed the fact Donegal County Council are rolling out the scheme and that “it is coming to the end of what has been an horrendous journey for homeowners and MAG, who are to be commended.”

Colr McGuinness said the council now needed to “step up to the mark” and ensure everyone is able to access the scheme.

He added that it must be ensured that MAG are involved in any discussions.

“It’s going to take experienced hands to deal with this quickly and their expertise needs to be called upon.”

Minister Joe McHugh added; “I want to acknowledge the work of the Mica Action Group and, in particular Eileen Doherty and Ann Owens, and other members who have shared their stories and opened their doors to explain the conditions they are living in.

“The people affected by this have shown immense patience, determination and fortitude in working with us to secure this resolution.”