Derry & Strabane stands with Donegal and other MICA homeowners : Council calls for 100% redress

Derry City and Strabane Councillors were unanimous in their support for the ongoing MICA campaign, calling for the Irish government and the Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien to ensure that full redress is provided to all the mica-affected homeowners.

Following the vote, the Council will seek a meeting with Irish Housing Minister demanding that 100% redress is provided to all those affected by MICA. Members also voted to invite representatives from the campaign to a meeting and they extended their support to those attending the rally in Dublin on Friday (October 8).

The notice of motion was brought forward by Sinn Fein Councillor Sandra Duffy who described the issue as ‘heartbreaking’ and ‘the stuff of absolute nightmares’.

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The Ballyarnett Councillor said: “What does a home mean for most people? A home is an enjoyable happy place where you can live, laugh and learn. It is somewhere you can love and be loved. A home provides security, belonging, identity and privacy.

“Imagine working your entire life scraping together enough money to get that mortgage, the excitement of picking up the keys and moving in and starting a life, watching your children grow, and then a crack appears in your kitchen wall.

“You dismiss it as natural settling then more and more cracks start appearing. You know in your heart what you are faced with, it’s the same problem your neighbour is dealing with, it is MICA.

“Your hard earned, hard worked for home is crumbling, it is unsafe. 

“You move your family in to one side as the cracks aren’t too bad there but you lie awake as you know only too well how this will end. It will end with your beautiful home in ruins, it will end with you still paying a mortgage on a property that doesn’t exist any more. 

“This is one family’s experience, it is John’s story but it’s far from rare. Thousands of homes in Donegal are crumbling due to defective blocks.

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“We need to help people out of this waking hell. They need 100% redress anything else than this will leave many families destitute and again I must highlight the fact that there are many families across this council area who have ploughed their hard earned money into treasured holiday homes that are not included in any scheme and this must also be rectified.”

Councillor Duffy congratulated the MICA action group before referring directly to the Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien.

“I ask would you honour the motion passed in the Dáil on June 15 for a full redress and I remind you of the tragedies that came out of the Priory Hall scandal,” she added. “This is the desperation you are placing on families and their mental health. It’s time to act now, Minister.”

Offering her party’s support for the motion, SDLP Councillor Shauna Cusack spoke on a personal level.

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“Having close family and friends whose lives have been ripped apart by MICA I understand the devastation it has caused. “

Colr Cusack spoke of the plight of a relative and his wife and their two children, who have special needs, “children who need a secure safe home, children who need familiar surroundings and children who need a lot of space” whose home is affected by MICA in Inishowen.  

“Their mum gave up work to look after them and today their home is crumbling around them. They are being told it will cost an additional €100,000 and the family have to live in and pay for all the expenses including living in a caravan on the site until their home can be rebuilt. This is the story for thousands of similar young families.”

The Foyleside councillor agreed with Councillor Duffy that second homes and retirement homes should be included in the scheme, describing the owners as ‘an integral part of the communities of Donegal adding that they ‘have been a huge boost to their economy’. 

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DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock spoke of the ‘massive impact’ the scandal was having on people’s mental health adding: “These are not statistics, these are real people and real lives that have been destroyed because of this MICA scandal. We stand with everyone who is calling for 100% redress. The Republic of Ireland government and the Housing Minister, Darragh O’Brien needs to sort it out and sort it out quickly.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Michaela Boyle who seconded the motion, said this was ‘an opportunity to bring further political pressure to bear on the Irish government to provide that 100% redress to those families who have been affected’. 

Describing it as an ‘humanitarian disaster for MICA owners unfolding in front of our very eyes’, the Sperrin DEA councillor added: “The motion is calling for council to offer its full support to those devastated families fighting for recognition and the 100% redress to enable them to repair or rebuild their crumbling homes. We also express our concerns as citizens of this council area who may be affected or excluded from any form of redress. No-one should be excluded in terms of redress.”

With all parties unanimous in their support for the motion, Councillor Duffy summed up saying: “We need to ensure we are keeping the pressure on and keeping the media spotlight on it. There are so many heartbroken families out there.”

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By Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter