Mica homes: ‘The current scheme is as worthless as our homes’
It is said that a picture paints a thousand words.
The pictures of the McLaughlin family home in Carndonagh leave many speechless.
The cracks caused by defective blocks paint a very clear picture of the devastating damage caused when mica overwhelms every block and crumbles homes and lives.
Joanne and Don McLaughlin built their stunning home in 2004 and moved in on St Patrick’s Day, 2005, with their children Jack, now 21, and Holly, who is 17.
Joanne worked for An Post and was based in the north side of Inishowen, so saw quite early on that there was a serious issue emerging in homes.
Speaking to the Journal ahead of a massive mica demonstration in Dublin tomorrow, Tuesday, Joanne said: “I started doing the post in 2006 and saw all the houses showing signs, especially in 2010, but more so in 2011, after the really bad winters. That’s when ours started showing as well.
“My work colleagues kept saying to me that we had it, but Don was hoping it was settlement cracks.”
However, in 2021, it became evident that the problem was more serious.
“Don was putting up shelves and was drilling and it was just like butter. It was no effort at all.”
Joanne has a number of family members whose homes are also affected by mica, including two sisters who live either side of her.
She told how her home quickly deteriorated and currently, all the render is falling off, particularly on the gable more exposed to the weather. On both corners of that gable, the wall is completely crumbling away.
There are also cracks on the inside and she and Don have had to replace their porch ceiling three times as the water is getting in. It is also seeping in through the bay windows.
Joanne told how she drives up her lane way and can’t believe the damage she faces. The couple has had testing done and demolition has been recommended.
She is heartened by the most recent campaign for 100% redress.
“This is the biggest I’ve ever seen. The whole country is behind Paddy Diver. Eileen Doherty and Ann Owens have always been fantastic and still are. They’re with Paddy at every step and no better women to be with him.”
What is not so positive is the scheme itself, which Joanne claims is an ‘absolute farce.’
“It’s as worthless as our homes at the minute.
“We got a rough quote from a contractor and he reckons we’ll be looking at around 350,000 euro and the top line of the grant is 247.000.
“There’s no way it’s 90%-10%, it’s more like 60-40 or 70/30.”
The couple said they have not received any support from their bank, despite reaching out to them at the beginning of the pandemic.
“I’ve a lot of health issues and had to give up work and because our circumstances changed they wouldn’t even look at us for a loan or top up. But, Don was speaking to a friend who has a really good job, as does his wife and the banks won’t look at them either.
“As soon as you mention mica they’re saying: ‘There’s the door’.”
Joanne is frustrated and angry at the authorities, saying what has happened is ‘not good enough.’
Joanne ‘can’t wait’ for the mica march, which will be held by homeowners and supporters from Dublin and Mayo in Dublin on Tuesday and encouraged everyone to go and show their support.
“Donegal and Mayo are being treated differently compared to the pyrite scheme - which got 100%.
“Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said pyrite was different as it was only 65k to fix a home, but at the end of the day, what has happened is not our fault. It is due to government regulations and legislation. The country needs to stand with us on this.
“If it is happening here in Donegal, Mayo, Clare and Limerick, it is going to be elsewhere.”
Joanne said she worries about the impact the stress and worry will have on children living through it.
“It does affect your mental health.,” she said.
“We don’t know what this is going to be like for our kids. Jack and Holly are older now and are grand, thank God, but Holly would be really upset by it when she was younger.
“You see wee girls like Aoife and Savannagh, who wrote letters and it’s heartbreaking.
“It has affected our children’s lives and the government needs to see that,” she added.