By James Ward, PA
Updated at 13:40
Hundreds of homeowners from several counties converged on Parnell Square in Dublin just before midday on Friday for the latest protest in support of a 100 per cent redress scheme for mica-damaged properties.
As The Irish Times reports, the crowd arrived at the Garden of Remembrance to voice their support for a Government commitment to fix thousands of homes, mainly in the north-west, crumbling from the use of defective building blocks.
Families gathered quietly in circles before the protest began circling its way through the capital.
In one corner stood Patricia Hennessy, a nurse from Inch Island in Co Donegal who set out on her three and a half hour journey from the northern extremity of the country just as her night shift ended.
With a massive crack in the gable wall of her home and several others around the four bed dormer she bought in 2006, she is waiting for things to get worse, but conscious other people are also in a precarious situation.
— Paddy Diver (@PaddyDiver4) October 8, 2021
“I have the cracks, but they haven’t separated yet,” she said. “We don’t know how quickly it changes from cracks to separation.”
As the crowds grew, there were sporadic cheers and honking of horns as more coaches with protesters, drove slowly into the square.
Dozens of buses carried people from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Claire, Leitrim and Sligo to the capital to march.
Homes falling apart
Paddy Diver, one of the organisers of the demonstration, said: “We protest because our families are living in homes that are falling apart.
“We protest because we are being left with the financial, mental and physical burden of a crisis that was not our making.
“Homes are falling apart because they were made with blocks with latent defects.”
Writing on Twitter, he added: “Government regulations allowed them to self-certify the product.
“BOTH manufacturer and Government are at fault here. The thousands left with the devastation these blocks leave behind ARE NOT TO BLAME.”
Campaigners want a scheme to help families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by mica, a mineral that can absorb water, due to building blocks cracking and crumbling.
The Government has faced criticism for only offering 90 per cent under the current scheme, leaving property owners with significant bills to repair or rebuild homes.
Campaigners have blamed a lack of building regulations and oversight of materials.
An estimated 5,000 homes in Co Donegal are affected by defective bricks, with thousands more understood to be in Counties Sligo, Clare and Limerick.
A report found that the cost of a full compensation scheme could reach €3.2 billion.
Earlier this week, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said Friday’s protest should be the last time mica-affected home-owners feel they need to demonstrate.
He told the Dáil on Wednesday that he will bring a proposal to Government in the coming weeks on a revised compensation scheme.
A draft report, compiled by a working group set up by Mr O’Brien, did not recommend 100 per cent redress, as demanded by campaigners.
The Minister said he understood the “tragedy” that affected home-owners face.
“We’re committed to enhancing this scheme and progress has been made on it,” he said. “I’m not going to delay.
“We have some work to do and we’re doing that work right now.
“The next step is I will be bringing proposals and working through options to the three party leaders and indeed to my Cabinet colleagues, and the Government will then make a decision in due course.
“I respect the right of people to protest and I always have.
“I did say [to home-owners] that my work would not be completed by October 8th. They realised that and accepted that and we had a good and open discussion around it.”
The minister said he is working with Attorney General Paul Gallagher to see how far the Government can legally pursue anyone responsible for building homes with defective materials.
“I’m looking at all options,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Those who are responsible should be held accountable.”