The paper studies the first homology of finite regular branched coverings of a universal Borromean orbifold called B 4,4,4ℍ3. We investigate the irreducible components of the first homology as a representation space of the finite covering transformation group G. This gives information on the first betti number of finite coverings of general 3-manifolds by the universality of B 4,4,4. The main result of the paper is a criterion in terms of the irreducible character whether a given irreducible representation of G is an irreducible component of the first homology when G admits certain symmetries. As a special case of the motivating argument the criterion is applied to principal congruence subgroups of B 4,4,4. The group theoretic computation shows that most of the, possibly nonprincipal, congruence subgroups are of positive first Betti number.