As temperatures drop, oil prices rise, cracks expand and insulation leaks, mica home owners face a fearful winter and a cold silence on the redress scheme.
Sharon O’Connor, living in Malin Head with her husband and two children, noticed cracks in her home’s walls ten years ago.
This winter she doesn’t know how she’ll be able to keep it warm.
“It’s freezing,” she says of her cracked, mica-riddled home.
“You can’t keep the heat in. We have under-floor heating, and last night was unbelievable. The doors were even banging [with the wind going through the house].
“We’re not going to be able to afford to constantly keep the heat on to the extent needed as the cracks are wider and there’s a draft getting in continuously.
“This year has been the biggest deterioration, so it’s going to be a bad year in terms of heating – never mind the fear of it falling down,” she said.
“It’s just torture. It’s torture every day because there’s wind blowing through and it’s just every day.
“It’s an everyday nightmare because you’re hearing cement falling and there are doors banging and it’s freezing cold.
“You just have no heart in it. No heart in it.”
Part of Sharon’s roof has come off and no one can sleep upstairs.
In one of the bedrooms the skirting board has rotted. Her family fears using electric appliances because of the damp surrounding wall sockets.
At night the doors of the house bang as wind flows through the house.
Her family feel like they’re stuck in limbo.
She says they have submitted their stage one application and paid their fees, but have not heard anything back with regard to a timeline or indeed even if they’ve qualified for the redress scheme.
While her own mental health suffers, Sharon is also concerned for the physical health of her parents.
“My parents are pensioners and their house is ready to fall down.
“They built their house over 10 years ago and their house is riddled with mica and they have absolutely nowhere to go also.
“I don’t know how they’re going to cope.”
She says mica almost constantly weighs on her father’s mind.
Through winter, her family will face decisions about what purchases to prioritise when heating costs become unmanageable.
Sharon says her family will be forced to ‘layer up’ and keep the heat off to ensure they don’t have to cut down on other things.
“We’re only going to be putting on the heat when we desperately need to; other than that we’re going to be layering up on clothes because it’s pointless – you couldn’t have the heat running when its going straight out,” she said.
“Christmas is going to be tough for a lot of people who are forking out money for heat and then they can’t afford to buy anything.
“It’s heart-breaking because we’re bad, but there are still people worse off.”
She says mica houses will be hit the hardest this winter and budget 2023 didn’t do enough to help them.
A recent survey by ALONE, a charity advocating on behalf of older people, indicated of older people it works with 92 per cent are most concerned about heating and energy bills.
As 1,000 litres of home heating oil costs around €1,300, it’s not hard to understand why.
Sharon says she just wishes the mica scheme would speed up so her family and other affected people can get on with their lives.
Mica homeowners are currently in limbo; the existing scheme has stalled, the new scheme the Government legislated for in the summer not yet open for applications.
“This has been going on for over 10 years now and we’re still sitting and we’re still waiting,” she said. “We can’t progress. We don’t know what’s happening.
“We’ve sent in all our documentation, and we’re going to lose 10% of our fees. That’s money that nobody has. Nobody has nearly the €7,000. Everybody had to borrow it to get their core testing done.
“There are people who can’t even get their cores done: people who are living on their own, pensioners, that don’t have the money. We need our houses done, we need to get on with our lives, people’s mental health has completely deteriorated and it’s getting worse.”