The first confirmed case in Northern Ireland of bricks damaged by mica has been discovered in a house, the Sunday Independent is able to reveal.
It’s an important development in a scandal that’s already affecting thousands of crumbling homes across the republic.
The Irish government has signed a controversial €2.7 billion mica scheme that offers affected homeowners 100 per cent compensation up to a ceiling of €420,000. But a lengthy court case has been launched involving hundreds of families who say the grants will not cover the full cost of reconstruction.
Mica is a natural mineral found in quarries. When this rock is used for building materials, a certain amount of mica ends up in the finished blocks and in the sand. The regulations allow up to 1% impurities, including mica, in concrete blocks.
However, blocks used in mica-affected homes have been found to contain up to 15 percent impurities. Mica absorbs water, causing cracks and weakening blocks.
More than 7,000 houses in the Republic, most of which are in Donegal and Mayo, are believed to contain mica damaged blocks.
Despite the large number of affected properties across the border, no cases of mica damage have been confirmed in Northern Ireland – until now.
Danny and Kate Rafferty’s home at Ballyarnett in Derry was built in 2005/06. They still have the receipts showing that concrete blocks used on the property were purchased from a Co Donegal company.
The couple, who live in the house with their two children, first noticed cracks in the outside walls of the property a few years ago. After paying £1,000 for an engineer to examine it, the Raffertys were told in September that the cracks were caused by defective mica blocks.
Further tests, costing several thousand pounds, will be needed to determine how badly the house is being attacked by Glimmer, but the Raffertys, who have just a few years left on their mortgage, fear the house will have to be demolished.
“It’s an absolute nightmare,” Mr Rafferty said Sunday independent. “If we funded this ourselves the best case scenario would be around £40,000 and the worst case scenario could be up to £100,000 depending on what we need to do.
“We were told that once cracks appear, water will seep into the wall and the problem will only get worse.”
Mr Rafferty said authorities in Northern Ireland could “deny” that mica-affected blocks from the Republic had been used in the construction of buildings in Northern Ireland, but added that his own family’s experience proved this was not true.
“It should be up to Stormont to tell the Irish Government that your materials have affected homes here and you should support the families affected. It’s time Stormont acted now,” he said.
The Raffertys have joined a lawsuit being undertaken by Dublin-based law firm Coleman Legal LLP on behalf of hundreds of people whose homes have been affected by mica.
The affected homeowners have issued legal directives to sue Donegal-based block suppliers Cassidy Brothers, Donegal County Council and the National Standards Authority of Ireland.
The number of cases is such that Coleman Legal LLP has agreed with the Courts Service to issue the cases in rolling tranches of 150.
Homeowners involved in the legal action say the proposed state grants will not cover the full cost of rebuilding their homes, arguing many will be left with thousands in the remaining costs.
They hope the courts will award the difference between the government subsidy and what they say is the true cost of rebuilding.
Commercial, holiday or agricultural property owners who are excluded from the subsidy scheme see no choice but to take legal action.
The cases are funded by a not-for-profit company, Donegal Concrete Defects, founded by two Donegal businessmen, Shaun Hegarty and Adrian Sheridan. The families of both men are affected by the mica scandal.
In a recent statement, Cassidy Brothers declined to comment on the High Court matters. However, the company said it has always “rigidly” adhered to industry standards set by government and regulatory bodies in manufacturing all of its products. “All Cassidy Bros products have always met all required standards at the time of manufacture,” the statement said.
The first writ related to the lawsuit was filed in the High Court last week on behalf of Donegal couple William and Gráinne Doherty. Construction of their home in Malin Head began in 2005 and they moved in in 2008. However, cracks appeared in the property in the second half of 2016. The property has a high mica content and needs to be demolished.
As the Raffertys live in Northern Ireland, it is understood their case will be treated as an international case in the lawsuit.
Despite being outside the Republic, her legal team will argue that Northern Ireland homeowners who have used blocks bought in the Republic to build their properties should be entitled to financial assistance.
While the Raffertys’ Derry home is the first confirmed case of defective mica blocks being used in a property in Northern Ireland, a spokesman for Coleman Legal LLP said they have recently been contacted by other Northern Irish families who believe their homes have also could be affected.
“We have recently been contacted by a number of families in the Derry and Tyrone areas over concerns about defective blocks in their homes. In the past week alone, we have been contacted by around 12 families,” said the spokesman.
“We also have a significant number of Northern Ireland clients whose second homes in Donegal are not part of the grants scheme.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/mica-scandal-first-confirmed-case-in-northern-ireland-is-family-home-made-from-defective-building-blocks-42122321.html Mica scandal: First confirmed case in Northern Ireland is detached house made from defective building blocks