Mammoth mica demonstration was ‘only the start’
They came in their droves, from all corners of Inishowen.
With placards raised as high as their desire for change, homeowners and supporters were determined to seize the chance to have their voices heard.
Speeches were delayed as word filtered through of traffic jams on the roads into Buncrana, as people young and old made their way to the Shore Front.
There was music and song, but each person gathered represented the heartbreaking reality of a crumbling, cracking home and a scheme deemed not fit for purpose.
For many, it was the first time they had travelled into Buncrana since before lockdown - a time when we were told to stay safe at home. But for many mica homeowners, their home is not their safe place and is falling down around them.
Taking to the stage first was Ann Owens, a person synonymous with ensuring fairness for mica homeowners.
She declared that what ‘started off a trickle has become a tsunami’ and ‘this is only the start.’
Ann told those gathered of a man named Denis Diver, who was a pioneer in the Land League and was arrested and imprisoned. He spent a year in jail with Charles Stewart Parnell, in ‘atrocious circumstances.’
Upon his release, he remained ‘unchanged and unchangeable.’
Denis Diver, Ann told, was the great grandfather of Paddy Diver, the Carndonagh man who brought new life into the mica campaign just a few short weeks ago.
Eileen Doherty, an affected homeowner and campaigner on this issue, told the crowd that the scheme is costing €5,000-7,000 for affected families even to access, whereas it only costs Leinster homeowners €550.
She said that this makes the scheme inaccessible to many families, who are left with nowhere to turn.
She said that Donegal people are being treated as second-class citizens and being discriminated against as opposed to the affected Pyrite families in Leinster.
She asked Taoiseach Micheál Martin to come to Donegal and to see first-hand for himself the anguish that this devastation causes, and accused him of being the only party leader not to have visited the county in relation to the issue.
A poem about mica and its impact on families was read by Sophie Farren, accompanied by her sister Charlotte, whose father Paddy, a long-time campaigner on the mica issue, died in 2018 before redress was announced.
They told how they are now fighting for their family home, which is ‘full of memories’ of their dad.
While everyone who spoke was hugely well received, the loudest cheers of the day were reserved for Paddy Diver, whose tenacity and enthusiasm led to the demonstration.
Paddy told how he started the campaign ‘because of my morals.’
“My mother and father brought me up to stand up for what is right. This is not right. I promised my children things would be alright, so there’s no way I’m going to stand and watch my house falling down while I sit back and do nothing.”
The crowd, which swelled to up to 10,000 people, then marched through Buncrana’s main street. The organisers had asked the protesters to comply with all Covid-19 regulations, and many of those attending wore masks.
Approximately 1,500 people marched in a simultaneous demonstration in Letterkenny to raise the issue and to show that this issue covers a large part of the county.
As the crowd dispersed, many had Paddy Diver’s words ringing in their ears - ‘we’re not going away - we will take this crowd, those in Letterkenny and Mayo to Dublin until we are heard - we’ll block the M50 if we have to.”