'˜Prime Time' probe into Mica homes

RTE's '˜Prime Time' programme is tonight expected to screen its investigation into homes built with defective blocks in Donegal.

Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 7:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 10:03 am
(L-R): Ann Owens (MAG), Minister Paudie Coffey, Damien Mc Kay (Structural Engineer) and affected homeowner Oliver Lafferty demonstrating the friable/ weak nature of the blocks used in the construction of his home when the Minister visited Inishowen last year.

The Mica Action Group (MAG) yesterday revealed they have been working closely with the ‘Prime Time’ team on the issue for several months.

MAG will tonight host a special public screening of the programme at An Grianan Hotel in Burt at 9.35pm and has urged anyone who thinks they might be affected, or anyone who has an interest in the issue, to come along.

The investigation by ‘Prime Time’ follows years of grass roots campaigning and public meetings led by homeowners in Donegal whose homes were constructed with defective blocks. The most common sign among these homes was identified as web-like cracking on the external plaster of the house.

One of the contributory factors is believed to be a high level of the substance ‘Mica’ - also known as Muscovite Mica - in the block,

This, when combined with low levels of cement and rain, can cause severe degradation.

‘Prime Time’ reporters have travelled to Donegal on a number of occasions and met with MAG, a number of affected homeowners and key stakeholders on this issue.

Eileen Doherty, Joint Secretary of the Mica Action Group said: “This airing of this programme by ‘Prime Time’ is the culmination of months of hard work by RTE, MAG and a number of homeowners affected by this issue.

“To give this issue national media attention is long overdue and we hope that viewers will see the desperate situation homeowners are finding themselves in, through absolutely no fault of their own”.

representatives have said this is an issue that could potentially affect thousands of families across Donegal.

The membership of an expert panel to investigate defective blocks was confirmed back in April. Following on from this, Donegal County Council was urged to “leave no stone unturned” in identifying how many of its housing stock have been affected by Mica, and also called upon to work closely alongside the new expert pane at a meeting of the Inishowen Municipal District meeting.

Eileen Doherty added: “We would like to ask people across the county to watch this RTE ‘Prime Time’ programme and to register with us, if they have not already done so through our Facebook page, in an effort to further raise awareness of this issue and to put pressure on ‘the powers that be’ to act and to do something.”

She added that a number of registered homeowners have met with the independent government panel a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Senator Pádraig MacLochlainn has revealed he has received confirmation from Minister Simon Coveney that the government will not amend the terms of reference of the expert panel, and that Donegal County Council will be left with the bill for council homes with mica defective blocks.

Senator MacLochlainn had asked the Minister to amend the panel’s terms of reference to allow it to investigate problems in concrete block work in publicly-owned buildings, such as council housing and schools. He had also asked for clarity around the panel’s remit on a potential redress scheme and financial assistance for “devastated” families already forced to carry out remediation works.

Mr MacLochlainn said: “Unfortunately the Minister has confirmed our fears. The line in his response that reads; ‘it will be the responsibility of the relevant public authorities, as the owners, to address any problems that may have emerged in their buildings’, clearly means that Donegal County Council will be left with the bill for repairing council homes with mica defective blocks. This could be a huge amount of money.”

If you think you are affected you can register at www.surveymonkey.com/s/9KPFQKM or contact the Mica Action Group on www.facebook.com/Micaactiongroup.