The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has had his €2.7 billion mica redress scheme approved by Cabinet, extending the scope of the redress to homes in Clare and Limerick, but campaigners have decried the scheme’s exclusion of further deleterious materials and the foundations of affected houses.
The general scheme of the remediation of Dwellings Damaged by Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022, which includes a potential 100 per cent grant to redress damage done by the mica minerals found in building blocks in homes throughout the country, was published in June 2022. The grant will be subject to a €420,000 cap and to a second cap of €145-161 per square foot.
The mica mineral has the ability to absorb water, which in turn causes blocks to crumble and has wrought havoc across Ireland, particularly in counties Donegal and Mayo, affecting an estimated total of over 7,000 homes. The scheme does not cover the defective mineral pyrrhotite, an issue that campaigners have raised, along with complaints that the 2017 recommendations of the expert panel that reported to the Government have not been followed, including a call for further research and testing to determine whether or not other deleterious minerals are present in the blocks. In response, Minister O’Brien said that work is ongoing with Engineers Ireland to investigate an issue with pyrite and that if issues of this nature are identified the scheme will be amended.
With the extension of the scheme to counties Clare and Limerick, O’Brien said that the scheme will take “a number of years” to complete: “All 7,000 homes obviously won’t be done in one year. This will take a number of years to get this work done. We’ll manage through The Housing Agency with the use of other properties as well.”
Further criticism from campaign groups has arisen from the scheme’s exclusion of the foundations of the affected homes, with felled houses set to be rebuilt on foundations that have not themselves been tested for the presence of mica or other deleterious minerals. Inflationary pressures have also been central to criticisms of the scheme, with Mica Action Group spokesperson Michael Doherty calling for the cap to be increased to €460,000.
“We want our homes back but don’t see why we should be out tens of thousands [of euro] in order to make that happen. We want to make sure the job is done right,” he said.