Engineer to leave mica panel over shortfalls in scheme

Engineer to leave mica panel over shortfalls in scheme

Paddy Diver, a mica-affected homeowner from Donegal empties a bag of mica-affected concrete he scraped from the walls of his home, using his bare fingers outside the Dail during a protest by mica affected homeowners from Mayo and Donegal seeking 100% redress for the faulty concrete in their homes. Picture: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

One of the senior engineers on the panel assessing mica damage to homes in Donegal has said he is leaving the panel unless changes are made to the remedial scheme, and he predicts that other colleagues will do the same. 

Dr Ambrose McCloskey stated in a letter to fellow engineers on the panel that no proper long-term solution has been put in place for the mica problem and the work required will take between 10 and 15 years to complete. 

Screenshots from an engineers report following an inspection of a home, which was damaged by defective concrete blocks. 
Screenshots from an engineers report following an inspection of a home, which was damaged by defective concrete blocks. 

He is convinced that homeowners do not understand that, short of full demolition, no chartered engineer will sign off on remedial work because “there is still a likelihood of further structural deterioration in the medium/longer term”.

Anecdotal evidence from numerous homeowners who rebuilt an outer leaf of their own accord in the past few years would also suggest there may be further issues, he added.

The mica remedial scheme was set up last year to compensate more than 5,000 homeowners who have been affected by mica — a destructive mineral found in aggregate used for concrete blocks. The problem was first spotted in Donegal, but has since been found in Mayo, Sligo, and Clare.

The scheme is currently projected to cost around €1.5bn, although this will easily top €2bn, according to some estimates. 

Following a major protest in Dublin over the scheme’s limitations two weeks ago, housing minister Darragh O’Brien announced the establishment of a special group to report on the matter, with a deadline of July 31. 

The group’s first meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow.

Derry-based Dr McCloskey previously wrote to Donegal County Council about some of the issues, but now he has said that things have advanced to the point where he has “several concerns” about the scheme and the fallout for homeowners.

He states that the issues that arise, which homeowners may not have taken account of, include:

  • Will insurance companies cover remediated properties? 
  • If so, will insurance companies charge a larger premium accordingly?
  • Will mortgage lenders allow home loans to be drawn down on dwellings with potential future deterioration?
  • If further deterioration then occurs, can they reapply to the scheme?
  • The property value will undoubtedly continue to be blighted due to the partial remediation.
  • Current mortgage lenders seem to have no involvement in the scheme. They are effectively stakeholders in the dwellings. Are clients expected to consult with mortgage lenders regarding demolition or remedial works? 
  • Should the mortgage lenders be contributing towards the costs?

Unless things change, he said, he will not be taking on new clients, and will withdraw when possible. 

“I am also of the opinion that there will be a severe shortfall in engineering and construction manpower to conduct this scheme, particularly when the construction work starts,” he said. 

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