Coalition ‘hears message’ of children ’s mica protest outside Dáil

The Government is now the one agency that can help the thousands of families affected by the mica controversy and “it intends to do this in a very comprehensive way”, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told the Dáil.

Speaking as children demonstrated outside Leinster House to highlight the impact on thousands of families, Mr Martin said it was “terrible” that they had to be there and “we’ve heard the message”.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is expected to brief the three Coalition party leaders this week on a new scheme to address the crisis and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald renewed her call for 100 per cent redress.

She highlighted the impact on children of the mineral in blocks which over time crumble when wet and quoted 12-year-old Mackenzie McDaid who said: “I worry when I go to sleep that the roof is going to fall on top of me. I was sleeping in my bedroom and I heard a big bang and a big pile of plaster had fallen off the wall. There are 15 out of 16 in my class who have mica and know that they have mica.”

Ms McDonald said the children demonstrating outside Leinster House were “very disappointed” that the Taoiseach had not come out to meet them, “look them in the eye and explain to them why they are living this nightmare”.

Mr Martin said he had checked before leaders’ questions and that no invitation had been received ahead of the protest. But he said he had met groups and had visited Donegal and “no party has a monopoly on empathy”.

He stressed that “we want to get this comprehensively resolved for the owners of the homes”.

Mica has affected thousands of homes, mainly in Donegal, but also in Mayo, Clare, Sligo, Limerick and other counties.

Ms McDonald said the impact on people’s mental health and on relationships has been immense. She added that families had been broken by this.

“I’ve spoken to people who live in caravans but still pay a big mortgage for a home that is literally disintegrating and these families have asked me time and again to put their case front and centre.”

She added that in June a Dáil motion was unanimously passed to offer 100 per cent redress but “it’s now being ignored it seems to me by your Government”.

Enough tea and sympathy

Ms McDonald said families had had enough tea and sympathy and it was time for solutions.

But the Taoiseach accused the Sinn Féin leader of politicising the issue. He said her party welcomed the first redress scheme which had been established “in good faith” by the previous government. He said that Sinn Féin had made no mention of the mica crisis previously and it was not in the party’s 2020 election manifesto.

The original scheme has to change, he said including the mechanism to deal with certification, rental costs, and remedial work.

He said the Minister for Housing had engaged with homeowners. He will address the party leaders “and the Government will then take a decision and share that with the House”.

Speaking later, at a press conference at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said he would read the letter handed in after the children’s protest and would respond to it.

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