'Every family deserves a house to live in'

Housing Minister commits to 'multi-annual' mica redress scheme

'Every family deserves a house to live in'

Donegal TD Pádraig Mac Loughlainn, Minister Charlie McConalogue, Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien, Mayor of Donegal Cllr Rena Donaghey, Mayor of Inishowen Cllr Albert Doherty at Official Mica launch

The meticulously socially-distanced launch of the new 'Defective Concrete Blocks Scheme' has taken place in Buncrana's Inishowen Gateway Hotel. 

Better known as the Mica Redress Scheme, it was launched by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien on Friday afternoon past.

The scheme will assist homeowners whose dwellings are affected by Mica and Pyrite in Counties Donegal and Mayo 

Speaking to an audience, which included members of the Mica Action Group, Donegal County Councillors, Minister of State for Law Reform Charlie McConalogue, Pádraig Mac Loughlainn TD and Seanadóir Niall Blaney, Minister O'Brien described the Mica Redress Scheme as “multi-annual.”

He added: “I wanted to spend a bit of time with you in Inishowen and to recognise and thank my Oireachtas colleagues. I have experience in my own constituency of Pyrite. I was involved in trying to craft a Pyrite Remediation Scheme. I am aware that many of you have been living with what has been such a difficult issue of both Mica and Pyrite in the blocks, which is particularly prevalent here in Donegal and in Mayo.

“That is why, as Minister for Housing, I wanted, very early in my tenure, to take up the  invitation from Donegal County Council and Minister McConalogue, to come here and speak to you directly and to launch the Defective Concrete Block Scheme officially. The scheme is now open for applications.

“I also wanted to do is commend all of the staff in Donegal County Council and in the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, as well as Joe McHugh TD, who have put a lot of work into the Scheme. I am  working with you and with residents to bring the Mica issue to a resolution. It will take time.

“You will see in the Programme for Government, that it is a clear commitment. There is €20 million is in the Budget this year.  I know applications have already been coming in and there have been difficult times since the start of March as well. There are also other issues which have come up regarding what was covered and what needs to be covered. 

“I want to give you a commitment here that this scheme is a multi-annual scheme and we won't be found wanting with regard to the funding that is required to resolve this. That is a firm commitment I give you. It is a multi annual scheme. It is not a once off given the scale of the issue,” said Minister O'Brien.

Drawing on the example of the Pyrite Redress Scheme, Minister O'Brien said initially it was expected 14,000 or 15,000 applications would be received.

He added: “However, it did not turn out to be of that magnitude. But we worked through the scheme of all the houses and that's how the remediation scheme worked.

“But we have to start and today is is a significant part of that. A start to turn people's lives around. Let us see how the scheme works through and it is only as it works through we will begin to see how effective it is. I am very confident that the work  my officials have done in the Department, with Donegal County Council, it will work well. 

“We may hit some speed bumps along the road but that happens and that is how schemes evolve, as the Pyrite has.

I am here on behalf of Government. We are committed to this scheme. We are committed to helping people getting on with their lives to have their homes fixed. homes that they can be proud of themselves, where they can feel secure. And indeed, where homes need to be replaced that will also be looked at.

“I would ask you to be all engaged with the scheme and to work with us and to work with Donegal County Council. And the County Council I have found is a very, very progressive local authority,” said Minister O'Brien.

Donegal Cathaoirleach, Cllr Rena Donaghey said it was great to have the Mica Redress Scheme officially launched. She added: “Hopefully it will be upwards and onwards for you from here.”

Thanking Minister O'Brien, Inishowen Municipal District Cathaoirleach, Cllr Albert Doherty said the Mica issue had “united all of the politics and all politicians over the recent long years.”

He continued: “The campaign to seek redress had been ably led by the Mica Action Group. Mica never asked as it entered a home what politics you were it affected all and all kinds. 

“On a day like today were we welcome the the redress and the financing announcement confirmed for this year, Minister, with your presence, as Budget 21 is prepared and over the next number of budgets, we need to see significant commitments for this Mica scheme, annual commitments. 

“When I first submitted a motion, Minister, I spoke to Dessie Ellis TD and who advised me to check out if there were any council housing schemes affected.  Well, we found there are a significant number. And I saw in your last reply to Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD that you you hope to meet the Chief Executive of Donegal County Council  and his officials in early August to discuss the matter and you also confirmed that the management, the maintenance was a matter for individual local authorities and that many maintenance  programmes were instigated to facilitate and look after it.

“I welcome that.  Others might also mention that the big day and significant day is getting the redress committee launched and the finance committed. But, one of the other cries is that we did not want anyone to be left behind. Out tenants, our people in public housing and we want to see that addressed very soon. We also want to see the 10 percent financial issue where it can be explored. We need consistent, continual assistance and your visit today is a great start,” concluded Cllr Doherty.

The Chairperson of Donegal County Council's Mica Redress Committee Cllr Martin McDermott said mica had been “devastating” for families in Inishowen and wider Donegal.

He said: “To be living in houses that are crumbling down around them. As you said the morning, 'Every family deserves a house to live in.' Every family certainly deserves a house to live in and every family can't live in a house that every time they walk out the door, a piece of the wall falls off or the door comes apart or the window won't close. Not just for those people, for the mothers, fathers, sons, daughters. The anguish, the mental health issues, the suffering that those people have done over the last 10 years, you can't put it into words.

“So, whatever we do as a Government and as local councillors, we mus make sure that no-one is left behind in Inishowen or Donegal when it comes to Mica,” said Cllr McDermott.

Minister of State Charlie McConalogue welcomed the fact Minister O'Brien had prioritised Donegal as the first county he had visited since assuming office. 

Mr McConalogue said: “Today is a momentous day. The Scheme has opened. So many families have waited so long with tremendous stress for the Scheme to be implemented.

“There is not a family in the County, certainly in North Donegal that is not affected by this issue in some manner, whether it is their own home or a son or a daughter or brother or sister. Every family is affected by it.

“And while housing and the delivery of housing nationally is a massive priority, we are unique in that equally, if not a bigger issue in the next number of years is ensuring that those homes which we provide, some of which are in a really bad state, are repaired  and people can get their lives back on track and have that security associated with having a home,” said Minister McConalogue.

Concluding the event, Pádraig Mac Loughlainn said a person's home is where they expected to be “safe.”

He added: “This issue has been devastating. Your home is where you are safe, where you come for refuge after a hard day's work. It is where you rest with your family. It is everything.

“Your home is your castle and to see that home that you have worked so hard to get the mortgage, to fall apart is the most devastating feeling imaginable. So that's how serious this matter has been. 

“I have top give massive congratulations to the Mica Action Group for the way you have conducted the campaign over the years. It is always been cross-party political. We had ministers, and I have to commend them, from Fine Gael, who were dealing with officials in their department who were concerned about the implications but who stayed the course because they came up here and met families.

“They looked into your eyed and and they are decent people and they could see this needed to be dealt with. It was cross-party and I am very proud of that because what we achieve mostly in politics is by working together. When we achieve the most for our people is when we work together. I am very proud of this achievement for Donegal and for all of us,” Deputy Mac Loughlainn.

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