Defective concrete blocks campaigners will travel to Brussels next month to meet with the European Commission and ask it to take proceedings against the Irish Government for its decade long failure to implement EU regulations designed to protect against the manufacture and use of defective concrete products.
Joe Morgan, an affected homeowner and former member of the Mica Action Group who has previously petitioned the European Parliament, says the visit represents the first opportunity to appeal directly to the EU Commission.
Campaigners will ask the Commission’s powerful Internal Market directorate to intervene and ensure that affected homeowners are provided with an effective remedy to a crisis fundamentally caused through the lack of enforcement and implementation of EU Regulations, which Mr Morgan says have been ignored by the Government for over a decade.
“The Irish Government has had ample opportunity to listen and to learn from campaigners, homeowners, scientists and industry experts,” Mr Morgan said.
“Despite detailed submissions, they have ignored pleas to design and implement a scheme that will support families and businesses in rebuilding their homes, and their lives.
“Instead, they offer financial assistance equivalent to 60 to 80 per cent of true rebuilding costs and ignore the need for modular homes to accommodate families whilst their homes are repaired.
“The Irish Government continues to ignore insights from homeowners and local authority representatives in relation to flaws in the Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme,” Mr Morgan continued.
“Homeowners have consistently reported shortfalls in funding to meet current day building costs, the exclusion of businesses from the scheme, the lack of support for vulnerable citizens e.g., elderly, disabled, families with kids, no alternative accommodation provisions (despite an acute housing crisis in Donegal and throughout the island of Ireland) and the omission of funding to replace foundations, despite no scientific evidence to suggest they are any less damaged than the blocks which they support.”
The delegation to meet with the Commission in Brussels on 1 June will include Dr Eileen Doherty and Professor Paul Dunlop from Ulster University, Lisa Hone, chair of the Mica Action Group, and scientist Dr Andreas Leemann from the Swiss Federal Laboratory who has been collaborating with Professor Dunlop on a scientific analysis of the causes of the defective blocks crisis.
Dr Leemann and Professor Dunlop will present their findings, which have been peer reviewed and published in a leading scientific journal and show that the EU regulation which limits sulphur content in the crushed stone used to manufacture concrete blocks when pyrrhotite is present has been substantially breached.
Analysis carried out on core samples extracted from concrete blocks in damaged homes have shown the presence of pyrrhotite to be as much as seven times the allowable limit.
“If EU regulations were being followed and enforced, this could not have happened,” Professor Dunlop, who is also an affected homeowner, said.
Dr Eileen Doherty, lecturer at Ulster University, an affected homeowner and former PRO for the Mica Action Group will convey how the Irish State failed to learn the lessons from the 2007 ‘pyritic heave’ case in Leinster which in turn contributed to the mica/ defective blocks crisis in Donegal and elsewhere.
She will highlight how the Irish Government failed to implement other EU regulations which require ongoing surveillance of quarries and concrete block manufacturers.
Citing ‘limited resources’ the Government told a previous EU hearing that enforcement actions under the Construction Products Directive were generally carried out on a reactive basis with surveillance usually triggered only on foot of complaints.
“Since we have been campaigning and communicating this issue directly to Government since 2014,” Dr Doherty said, “it begs the question why these complaints were never acted upon?”
Mr Morgan said that he hopes the European Commission will issue infringement proceedings against the Government for its “blatant disregard of EU Regulation”.
“We will argue that the EU has a responsibility to mandate the Irish Government to implement and enforce EU Regulation; and that they must insist quarries are fully assessed on an ongoing basis to guarantee products are fit for purpose,” he said.
“Equally the EU has a responsibility to ensure measures to remedy the mistakes of the past are effective and therefore incur no financial burden on behalf of the homeowner, who has done nothing wrong.”
The campaigners’ meeting with the European Commission has been supported by MEP Luke Ming Flanagan and The Left Group in the European Parliament.