SUICIDES and family breakups have been amongst the devastating fallout of the mica crisis that has struck homes in the west.
Thousands of protesters from Donegal, Mayo and Clare converged on the capital today to seek full redress for the damage caused by the defective building blocks.
One man spoke of cracks in his home large enough to reach your hand in “up to your knuckles”, while another woman told of hearing “a sound like a shot” a fortnight ago which saw a crack develop suddenly at the back of her sitting room.In the biggest crowds to be seen in the capital since the onslaught of Covid, an estimated 4,000 people converged for the protest. They came from Donegal, Mayo and Clare – with reportedly 45 coaches arriving from Donegal.
With signs carrying messages such as “100% Redress Nothing Less”,“Our Family Home is Falling Down” and – most ominously for politicians - “We May be Remote But We Still Vote”, they gathered first at the National Convention Centre along the quays where there were speeches from campaign leaders and politicians.
They then marched en masse to Government Buildings, chanting: “What do we want? 100 per cent. When do we want it? Now.”
One man told of a friend’s marriage that had fallen asunder under the stress of the ongoing saga. Others spoke of suicides that have been caused as a result.
Daryl Kelly from Buncrana, Co Donegal said he had moved into his house with his wife in 2008 and they had raised their three children, now aged 10, six and four. They had saved for the deposit since the day they both started to work.
Hairline cracks developed in the gable end two years ago and he had them filled in, thinking they were ‘settlement cracks’.
Then when tests on a neighbour’s house discovered mica, they said they too would get the test. His engineer has since told him that he is not taking any more people on because the problem in the local area is too widespread.
Since the cracks were discovered, Daryl’s youngest son now plays pretending that he is a builder. “He goes around pretending to drill holes to fix up the house,” he said.
He has to frequently warn them not to kick a football near the house “in case it falls down”.
Daryl’s partner Michelle “has cried herself to sleep at night worrying about the situation,” he says.
Speaking in the Dáil, Mary Lou McDonald said the flaws in the thousands of family homes affected has inflicted untold misery on the families who suffered health and mental problems as a result.
“They go to bed at night wondering will their gable end fall down, or will the chimney on their neighbour’s house fall down,” she said.
Back at the protest, Benny Bradley, also from Buncrana said he fears about the bigger problem of potential homelessness that will affect people, even if they are successful in obtaining 100pc redress. “Where is everything going to go? Where can we store our things? Where is everybody going to go? There are no houses for rent in Co Donegal,” he said.
“They are all Airbnbs charging €3,500 a month – and even they have mica in them.”
Meanwhile mother of five, Ursula Gillespie, also from Buncrana, told how cracks had developed in her house six years ago. The house was formerly her parents’ home and she had taken it over. Not knowing then about the mica crisis, they had the cracks repaired and the house now “looks perfect” but she fears for the safety of the internal house. “If my inside blocks have mica I won’t be able to get insurance, we won’t be able to sell, “ she said.