Homeowners in Ireland living in houses built with defective blocks that “crumble like Weetabix” say a compensation scheme unveiled by the government will still leave them with devastating bills of up to €80,000 (£60,000).
A long-awaited redress scheme for the estimated 6,000 people living in homes that have to be demolished and rebuilt was unveiled by the government earlier this week. The government says the scheme will cost €2.2bn and means homeowners will bear no upfront costs.
At first it appeared the government had met many of the demands of campaigners representing people whose homes were built with blocks containing too much of the mineral mica, which caused the blocks to crack and crumble.
But after studying the details – in particular the inclusion of a tapering element to the bailout funds – the campaigners condemned the government’s scheme as a cynical attempt to grab positive headlines.
Government funds for rebuilding are tapered from €145 a square foot for the first 1,000 square feet (93 sq metres) to €110 a square foot for the next 1,000 and €100 a square foot thereafter. Campaigners said this leaves major shortfalls for those whose homes need demolishing and rebuilding.
“Just for the contractor alone this is going to cost me €79,000,” said Angeline Ruddy, acting deputy principal of a school in Carndonagh in Donegal, who lives in a house that will have to be demolished. “If I went to the bank looking for that they are going to laugh at me because my collateral is a house full of holes that is crumbling.
“I am absolutely disgusted,” she said. “I cannot believe that after all these years trying to get redress, that the government has decided to treat us like this. This is shocking behaviour.
She said she feels betrayed by her local MP, the agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue. “I do not know how he can drive through the town,” she said. “He knows the pain people are suffering yet doesn’t seem to take any responsibility at government level.”
Across the town and hinterlands where Ruddy lives, houses are riddled with cracks and falling down owing to defective building blocks containing mica.
The scheme announced two days ago was the culmination of a 10-year campaign by homeowners who discovered cracks in their new-build houses in the years after moving in.
Many initially blamed the builders but it gradually emerged that the building blocks contained too much mica.
The scheme was billed as the solution, with compensation of up to €420,000 a home.
Paddy Diver, spokesperson for the Mica Action Group, said: “The only way this is going to be fixed is if the government brings in the housing authority to fix our houses.”
He accused the government of acting in “bad faith” and said the sliding scale element was sprung on them and was not part of the consultation process.
Campaigners are now talking about bringing a new protest “to close the streets of Dublin before Christmas” with possible support from lorry drivers and farmers.
Sinn Féin MP Pearse Doherty, who is from Donegal, called on the government to scrap the sliding-scale plan and “go back to the drawing board”. He said the scheme was “no use to families”.
Ruddy said the impact of the mica scandal on the mental health of both parents and children at her school was evident.
“I had one child come up to me yesterday to say ‘my daddy is in a dark place’. I do not know where we go from here,” she said.