By James Ward, PA
Mica protesters have vowed they will continue to stage demonstrations until they receive 100 per cent redress.
Tens of thousands of people from Donegal, Mayo, Sligo and Limerick flooded the capital on Friday to demand the Government covers all the costs for homes that are crumbling due to defective blocks.
Amid huge disruption in Dublin city centre, with roads blocked and public transport unable to move, campaigner Paddy Diver vowed the protests will continue if their demands are not met.
He told the PA news agency: “Our backs are to the wall, we have nothing left to lose. We had to come down here and show (Minister for Housing) Darragh O’Brien that we’re taking no more bullshit.
“We’ve 30,000 people down today. If we have to come down again, we can do the same damage with 500 people. We’re not going away. We’ll do sit-downs on the M50, we can close the ports.”
Mr Diver revealed the campaigners are considering running candidates in the next election.
“We’re sick of the false promises. This has been going on for 10 years,” he said.
“Don’t let anybody forget that when they’re saying it will cost €2 billion to fix these homes, it would not be anywhere near that if the Government had done their job and listened when we told them.
“They knew that they’re defective blocks. They set up a scheme because of defective blocks, but they never stopped the problem from happening.”
Dozens of buses carried people from Donegal, Mayo, Limerick, Claire, Leitrim and Sligo to the capital to march from the Garden of Remembrance to Customs House, where the Department of Housing is located, at noon on Friday.
A chorus of boos greeted Donegal TD and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue when he attempted to address the crowd. Organisers pleaded with those gathered to treat the Minister with “respect”.
When eventually allowed to speak, Mr McConalogue backed the calls for 100 per cent redress.
“I recognise, and we recognise, the massive responsibility on us to you. The massive blight that this issue has been on families lives for many years now,” he said.
“The massive daily stress and nightly stress that this issue means in terms of people being able to live a normal life and not being able to do so.
“I want to be absolutely clear in my support for 100 per cent redress. As a Cabinet Minister, I am working for that.”
But speaking in Belfast, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the details of the redress scheme would not be ready in time for Tuesday’s budget.
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) October 8, 2021
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald also addressed the crowd.
“We’re here to tell you very simply, that we support 100 per cent redress for every family, for every home that has been affected by mica and pyrite. End of story, full stop,” she said.
She added: “The Minister and the Government can run but they cannot hide, they cannot hide from this tide of passion and determination and they certainly can’t hide from Paddy Diver.
“I want to thank you for this campaign and I want to thank you for demonstrating that when you take a stand, you can make a difference.”
Campaigner Eileen Doherty said: “We are sick of being treated as second-class citizens and as the forgotten county.
“We are not to blame, we did nothing wrong. The Government presided over a system of self-certification, light-touch regulation and lack of adherence to existing Irish and EU legislation, which caused this crisis.”
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.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Housing said no decisions had yet been made in relation to an enhanced redress scheme.
“Minister O’Brien is acutely aware of the urgency of this matter and will continue discussions on proposals for an enhanced scheme with department officials and his Cabinet colleagues over the coming weeks with a view to bringing a memo to Cabinet in the next two weeks,” they said.
“Enhancements to the scheme will need to be agreed by Government and absolutely no decisions have been made yet in relation to an enhanced Defective Concrete Block Scheme.”
Earlier this week, Mr O’Brien said Friday’s protest should be the last time mica-affected homeowners 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 understands the “tragedy” that affected homeowners face and that 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.”