Michael Clifford: Mica victims stage fight-back worthy of All-Ireland Sunday

Brightening the streets of Dublin in pursuit, not of a title, but justice
Michael Clifford: Mica victims stage fight-back worthy of All-Ireland Sunday

Roadside protesters during a demonstration in Dublin to demand a 100% redress scheme for homes and properties affected by bricks contaminated with mica. Picture:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

It was impossible to get away from the spectre of All-Ireland Sunday as an army of Donegal jerseys made their way down the banks of the Liffey to the Convention Centre. 

Also present was the odd green and red of Mayo and blue and gold of Clare, as if those two counties were playing in the minor match.

They were all brightening the streets of Dublin in pursuit, not of a title, but justice. 

The issue is their cracking and crumbling homes which have been attacked by a destructive mineral called Mica. 

Chloe Devlin, 8, and Katie Devlin, 6, from Ramelton, Co DOnegal. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Chloe Devlin, 8, and Katie Devlin, 6, from Ramelton, Co DOnegal. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The cost threatens ruination on thousands of homeowners, particularly in the northern half of Donegal. 

The cost threatens ruination on thousands of homeowners, particularly in the northern half of Donegal.  Picture:  Niall Carson/PA Wire
The cost threatens ruination on thousands of homeowners, particularly in the northern half of Donegal.  Picture:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Their homes have, as Michael Healy Rae told them from the stage, “been taken out from underneath you through no fault of your own".

The Kerry TD was the first politician to feel the pain of the gathering from a little stage raised in the shadow of the gable end of the towering convention centre. 

Crowds made do with minimum social distancing all along the street, spilling across the road onto the Samuel Beckett Bridge, numbering at least 3,000. 

They carried their legitimate grievances on placards and signs and banners, and yes, on the county colours, which were worn with both pride of place and defiance in the face of, what they consider indifference from on high to their plight.

They travelled from the periphery of the State to be here, to assert their right to equal treatment as they see it, to make their voices heard in a political system conditioned to only respond to major pressure.

Fiona Duggan wondered about equality of treatment. She and her husband made the four-hour journey from Inishowen. 

The pyrite problem, which mainly affected Dublin and Leinster, was dealt with by a scheme reimbursing homeowners with 100% of costs. 

Sharon Doneghy with her daughter Chloe, from Buncrana, Co Donegal. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos Dublin
Sharon Doneghy with her daughter Chloe, from Buncrana, Co Donegal. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos Dublin

Those in the north west blighted by mica only receive 90%, and that does not include relocating, renting, and a whole range of ancillary costs when people have to temporarily move out of their homes.

“That’s why people in Donegal think we are second-class citizens,” Fiona said. 

“Which we are and that’s why we are here today, just to have our voices heard.” 

From the stage, the clock was ticking down to 3.30pm on All-Ireland Sunday, the manager, Pearse Doherty, was on his feet in the dressing room, thunder on the tip of his tongue. 

“A chairde,” he roared at his brethren. “Today is your day, today is Donegal’s day, we are not going to be kept down.” 

And then just to make sure that everybody left it all out on the pitch he added: “We demand 100%.” 

The crowd erupted. If flowing rhetoric could win All Irelands, they’d be home and hosed.

Orla Carolan and her husband Conor came from Letterkenny, from their home that is showing the dreaded cracks that signal Mica is eating away within the concrete blocks. They have two kids, aged eight and six. She fears for their future. 

Independent Donegal councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr shows his support at Leinster House for the Mica-affected homeowners. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos Dublin
Independent Donegal councillor Frank McBrearty Jnr shows his support at Leinster House for the Mica-affected homeowners. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos Dublin

“The cost is just enormous. From a parent’s point of view, you look at your kids, who we saved for to have money for college to give them a better life, and all that is out the window if the scheme as it now is stays in place. Just gone.” 

Out on the street, a Mica action man drove a jeep decked with Mica action stickers and Mica action banners and pulled a Mica action trailer crawling past the crowd for the third time, beeping his horn. 

A garda asked him to move along and off he went to do another lap of the block. 

The sun beat down on the gathering, a Luas tram rumbled off towards the IFSC, a few people broke open the sandwiches and a few more sat by the Royal Canal to take a rest from the heat of the day and the heat of the crowd.

There were more speeches. Joe McHugh was sheepish, presumably because he knew that things could get ugly for a Fine Gael man at this protest, but his own people were never going to do him down up here in the Big Smoke. 

Paddy Diver, from Donegal, empties a bag of Mica-affected concrete he scraped from the walls of his home, using his bare fingers, outside the Dáil. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
Paddy Diver, from Donegal, empties a bag of Mica-affected concrete he scraped from the walls of his home, using his bare fingers, outside the Dáil. Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

“Nobody was more disappointed than me that the 90%-10% scheme didn’t work,” he said.

When it was all over, they took to the road, through the city centre, as word filtered through that the Government was going to respond to their concerns. 

The home straight was in sight, Sam in the bag and not a ball kicked in anger.

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