A Donegal creche that is crumbling due to defective mica building blocks is in real danger of closing down and leaving 160 families with no childcare.
Creches across Ireland have forced to close due to funding issues, while homes and businesses across Donegal have been impacted by the Mica scandal destroying their property.
In the middle of this, Letterkenny Community Childcare, the only low-cost community childcare centre in the area, faces both issues at once.
Manager Geraldine Burke told Lunchtime Live the creche is “falling apart” and has not received enough funding from the Government.
“We highlighted this in 2019 that our building had a limited life span,” she said. “We're looking to probably the end of 2024 that we really need to relocate."
Damage from defective mica bricks is seen all across the creche, from the walls outside to the floors inside.
Ms Burke said there is one large crack on a wall holding up the roof of the building that is “widening”.
“In the heat and the cold, the cracks get bigger, and we can hear them cracking,” she said.
“It's very distressing for staff and parents.”
'There is nowhere else to go'
As the only community childcare centre in Letterkenny, staff and parents fear what might happen if the building becomes uninhabitable.
“There are 160 families here – if we go, there is nowhere for them go,” Ms Burke said. “There isn’t any prospects.
“We have 400 children on our waiting list - parents can’t go to work unless they get childcare, and we can’t move or expand.”
The creche needs €2.5 million to build a new facility – but as a not-for-profit business, Ms Burke fears what might happen to staff, parents and children.
“We’re inspected regularly, and we have an inspection coming up in September,” she said.
“It's just very distressing that we want to work, we want to expand the service and help people stay in work.”
'My children love it there'
Nurse Michelle Kavanagh has two children, aged seven and three, in Letterkenny Community Childcare who “absolutely love it there”.
“My three-year-old doesn’t even wave me goodbye, she just runs in,” she said.
“It's valuable to me to know that when I'm out working and my husbands out working all day that they’re being looked after, that their needs are being met.”
Ms Kavanagh noted that the staff in the creche have not changed in the seven years she’s known them, “which speaks volumes”.
“The girls work so good together, they’re so efficient,” she said.
Ms Kavanagh had “goosebumps” listening to Ms Burke’s description of the defective building the creche has become.
“You don’t want to think about it,” she said.
“It's a massive concern that if it was to not pass inspection next month, there is nowhere else to go in Letterkenny.”
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Main image: Splitscreen of some of the areas affected by Mica in Letterkenny Community Childcare. Images via Geraldine Burke.