Pride as mica-impacted children have their voices heard at protest

Children from Inishowen told how they’re ‘scared to sleep at night’ and are worried Santa won’t get down their chimney at Christmas at a mica protest outside Leinster House on Wednesday.

Children who live in houses affected by mica protest outside Dail Eireann.
Children who live in houses affected by mica protest outside Dail Eireann.

The 50 children, accompanied by parents, set off early in the morning to make the long journey to Dublin and have their crucial voices heard in the mica campaign.

The young people from primary and secondary schools across Donegal held placards that read ‘Please don’t leave me homeless’ and ‘I did nothing wrong.’

They all wrote letters which outlined how they are living with mica, as well as their worries and concerns.

Donegal TDs Minister Charlie McConalogue, Deputy Pearse Doherty and Padraig MacLochlainn and Thomas Pringle all met with the children outside and showed their support. Deputy Joe McHugh could not attend due to ‘unavoidable’ circumstances but rang the children as they travelled on the bus down.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gormon and Minister for Education Norma Foley also met with the children outside the Dail gates. While there was some consternation that the Ministers did not meet all the children in attendance, the meeting of three Ministers - including Min. McConalogue - with the children outside the gates was ‘unprecedented.’

There was anger that An Taoiseach Michael Martin did not meet with the children, who waited for him for well over an hour after the other deputies had left and chanted his name.

The Taoiseach told the Dail that he had not received an invitation to do so, however organiser Barry Kearney showed an invite was issued and has called on the Taoiseach to correct the Dail record.

The Journal contacted the Taoiseach’s office yesterday but they had not responded at the time of going to Press.

Speaking to the Journal yesterday, Mr Kearney said organisers were ‘so proud’ of the children and they, in turn, were all proud of themselves.

“A lot of the children went to the previous protests and they are a massive part of what is happening, But we, as a campaign, felt that perhaps their voices haven’t been heard as much as they should have been. A few of them had written to Ministers and didn’t hear much back, so we wanted to bring them down. The children represented 42 schools across Donegal. 90% of schools in Inishowen were covered and it was both primary and secondary.

“We were extremely proud of them all yesterday. They were wee troopers and stood outside for three or four hours, chatted to the TDs and showed them their letters. They were disappointed when the Taoiseach didn’t meet with them, but overall, there was a sense of achievement and they were very proud to play their part.”

The hashtag #micachildren trended in the top three on Twitter all of Wednesday and the children appeared across national media.

Barry told how community support was also fantastic with shops gifting the children sweets and an anonymous donor paying for the buses.

He added how a visit to Saint Francis School, Clonmany with Amanda Diver the day before the protest highlighted the impact of mica across Inishowen.

“The school itself has mica. So the children were reading their letters to us in a room that has cracks running along the wall.

“The principal has a mica house and 19 out of the 20 children in that class has mica. One lad said he goes to bed at night and tries to fall asleep before he hears the popping sound of the wall cracking.

“There is no escaping it for these children. They see it, hear about it and are talking about it in the classroom. This is a humanitarian crisis.”