3,000 properties in Lifford-Stranorlar MD may have mica - claim

Forget redress, demolition the only option - Cllr McBrearty Jnr

3,000 properties in Lifford-Stranorlar MD may have mica - claim

Cllr Frank McBrearty Jnr

Upwards of 3,000 homes and commercial properties in the area stretching between Glenfin and St Johnston would need to be tested for mica, pyrite and pyrrhotite.

That was the claim from independent councillor, Frank McBrearty Jnr this evening when he spoke at a special online meeting of Donegal County Council's Lifford-Stranorlar Municipal District dealing with the subject.

He warned that approximately 16 towns and villages or approximately 30,000 people could be affected and demanded that all council stock such as council houses, SI houses, commercial properties, offices and any buildings associated with the council such as the Finn Valley swimming pool for example, needed to be tested for these harmful minerals.

"I won't accept remedial work for any of the properties that test positive for mica, pyrite and pyrrhotite. It has to be Option 1 and option 1 only - complete demolition.

"I also call today for every single resident who has this problem to be given an exemption from paying rent until they receive new accommodation built or bought for them.

"It's a breach of contract as far as I am concerned, " he said.

Cllr McBrearty Jnr outlined problems in the council-owned Railway Park estate in St Johnston where one family in particular had a house. One member of the family had serious medical problems which the council committed to fix their house because of his condition but did not only did what he called a "sticking plaster" solution because it knew the houses were mica affected.

He said he was annoyed at the fact the mica crisis affecting the houses including houses that the council had under the HAP scheme, were not brought to Lifford-Stranorlar councillors attention by the engineers, the county executive or staff.

He also outlined that he raised safety issues with the council's executive concerning repair work currently underway there.

"How many other council houses are in the same position in the towns and villages in our area?"

He said it was time for the council to verify the actual number of mica houses affected

Cllr McBrearty Jnr said he believed there were in excess of 3,000 mica affected properties in the municipal district if one counted council houses, commercial properties, turnkey developments since the 1980s, leased or rented buildings.

He added this also included properties owned by the various housing associations or ones that were about to be taken over, would need to be checked too.

"If the council goes down the remedial route they are breaking the law because they have no engineer who can indemnify these properties.

"Not only that, the tenants in these houses will not be able to get their homes insured for their contents The council would need to answer what way will these people get insurance, will they get public liability insurance or if anything falls off these houses will be council be covered by insurance and if anyone gets killed or seriously hurt, who is liable - is it Donegal County Council or the Government" he said.

Cllr McBrearty was also critical of the fact Cllr Martin Harley and Cllr Gary Doherty were not at the meeting and added he wanted to know if Cllr Doherty, as previous chairman of the MD know of the problems in St Johnston.

Other councillors Patrick McGowan, Liam Doherty and chairman, Gerry Crawford all supported the call for information and support as the mixed message from the council and the department were causing concern for everyone affected.

"We are going to have to get all these properties tested. I've heard reports of houses the council bought in Ballybofey being affected," said Cllr McGowan.

Cllr Doherty said the council should stop buying houses until they were tested while Cllr Crawford said he knew people were now worrying whether houses going back into the 1980s were mica affected adding visual inspections of potentially affected homes were not going to be good enough going forward.

The council's director of housing, Joe Peoples assured the meeting he would have information relating to council properties constructed from the 1980s in the MD for members next week.

"There is no question of any tenant of houses that needs attention being ignored. All will be assessed and considered."

He added they were conscious that problems might not show up in some properties right away so the only way they could be sure was a testing programme for all properties.

He also stressed a team was being put in place to deal with council properties adding it would not be the council's intention to do work that would be subject to further damage occurring

"Whatever works we do they will be a Rolls Royce job in terms of the remedial works that are needed but logistically it is a very significant task, unprecedented in the history of our country but the plan and resources have to be put in place and tenants advised on an individual basis or through residents' associations specifically what the circumstances are in relation to their particular estate or house," he said.

The meeting ended with Cllr McBrearty Jnr saying Mr Peoples should not even be taking about remedial works, the only options was demolition.

He added he was also concerned for tenants who may have purchased council houses through the Tenants Purchase Scheme and now find they have mica, pyrite and pyrrhotite.

"I have already written to the council about this and I am in the process of putting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests together. Mr Peoples needs to answer: is the council going to give these people an exemption due to a breach of contract?

"You supplied a home that is defective so you are in breach of contract.

"Remedial works are not acceptable. These properties have to be demolished and the Government who are responsible for this must put our stock back the way it is. The Government must open up the cheque book and start dealing with these problems.
"Please stop using the words remedial works, please use the word demolition, it's the only option open to cure everybody of this disaster," he claimed.

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