Mica homeowner who feared chimney would collapse has worry ‘lifted’ after kind gesture

A mica-affected Buncrana homeowner, who couldn’t sleep at night as she feared her chimney would fall down, has told how the ‘tightness’ in her chest has lifted, after a kind local contractor offered to repair it for free.

Ellen Doherty spoke to the ‘Journal’ after a wall surrounding her house in Ludden - built with the same defective blocks as her home - completely collapsed.

Ellen, who lives with her two sons in the home she and her late husband built in 2004, has been told that her insurance company will not pay out for the wall, as they do not cover for rain or mica.

Ellen is in the process of applying for the Defective Blocks Scheme and, as she has not yet been accepted on to it, cannot avail of ‘Essential Immediate Repairs’ costs for which a homeowner can recoup up to 90% of a total cost of E5555. The homeowner pays the cost initially.

The wall that fell down outside Ellen Doherty's home.

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Ellen outlined how, when the wall, which was surrounded by a wooden fence, fell down on an extremely stormy night on Saturday week past, she initially thought the chimney had fallen in. The chimney is so badly damaged that Ellen cannot light a fire. Her home and the bathroom in particular, is also heavily impacted by black mould. Ellen, an asthmatic, has placed two dehumidifiers in the bathroom to try and lessen the damp and mould. “I can’t put a fire on for two reasons. One: I’m afraid that the chimney will move and fall in on top of me and two; when I light a fire, the smoke goes all over the house and I don’t know why.”

Ellen’s home and the collapsed wall have been shared across social media and in national newspapers in recent days. She gave an interview to Highland Radio yesterday morning, following which, a local contractor visited her home and offered to repair her chimney, at no cost. “I want to bless him from the bottom of my heart. People have been so good. It’s the first time I’ve smiled in a long time. I have had a tightness in my chest and it’s gone. It has lifted the worry clean off me. I’ve been so worried - not being on the scheme yet, not being able to light a fire and keeping the mould at bay. I sleep in a room underneath that chimney and I want it down so that I’ll be able to put a fire on. I will sleep tonight.”

Ellen said that when she and her late husband built the house, it was ‘going to do us our lifetime.’ It is now cracking and crumbling both inside and out.

She regularly sits up until the early hours of the morning, afraid to go to bed in case the chimney falls down ‘on top’ of her in her bed.

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“I sit up to around 1am, thinking that if it’s going to fall in, it’ll fall in now. If it’s stormy, or windy, I go to bed and lie there and try to sleep, but you hear all sorts of noises when you have mica.”

Ellen said the wall that fell in was built with the same blocks as the house. When the street was tarmacked, it was done ‘up to the wall’ and rain ‘would break through the tarmac and come in behind the wall’. The wall came down ‘with a sound like a wild bang of thunder’.

She added: “I looked out and my first thought was: ‘Good, it’s not the chimney.’ Then I saw the wall. Everything came down. I was lucky, as a part of the coping stone broke and ‘skitted’ off the oil tank, but it just scraped it, thank God.”

Mica campaigner Paddy Diver, who has been in regular contact with Ms Doherty, said a plan must be put in place to deal with emergency incidents and called for a ‘maintenance team’ to be put in place by the council for such events. “We need to do something before there is a tragedy,” he said.

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Mr Diver also called on people to join the Cost Of Living Coalition National Pre-Budget Protest in Dublin on Saturday, September 24 to keep pressure on the government in relation to the Mica Redress Scheme.