Pensioner stays in dark after council rejects power plea
Published 03/11/2011 | 01:58
Councillors in Coleraine have voted against a plea to help a 76-year-old man who has lived for almost three decades without electricity.
Pensioner John McCarter’s home has been deemed “unfit for human habitation” by environmental health officials because it has no electricity or heating.
Two years ago Mr McCarter won a highly publicised battle with NIE to have his street at Downhill outside Coleraine hooked up with electricity.
But while his neighbours now have full power, Mr McCarter remains in the dark.
His landlord, a Co Londonderry lawyer, has been summonsed to court for failing to upgrade the house.
Concerns over the pensioner’s health, if left for another winter without electricity, prompted Coleraine councillor David McClarty to ask the council to step in and immediately carry out the necessary work in the house. The cost would then be reclaimed from the landlord.
The council has the discretionary power to upgrade a private property if there is a health and safety risk and then bill the owner for the cost.
However, at a private council meeting on Tuesday night, the request was rejected by a majority of councillors. They instead agreed to ask the Department of Health and Social Services to investigate.
“This gentleman has spent the last two winters in a property that has no electricity. At four in the afternoon his only source of light is a candle. He has no electricity and no heating therefore I am fearful for his welfare,” said independent councillor David McClarty.
“I am exasperated that the majority of council members rejected the opportunity to help this man and are leaving him to endure these conditions.”
Mayor of Coleraine Maurice Bradley said he was not at liberty to discuss the reason the motion was rejected as the council meeting had been held in private.
John McCarter said he was disappointed by the outcome of the council meeting, adding that he fears another winter in the dark could kill him.
“I feel that what is happening is that I am being used as a political football to kick around. Last winter the temperature dropped to minus 4. I am dreading another winter without electricity,” he said.
Mr McCarter’s landlord, Fergus McIntosh, was summonsed to Coleraine Magistrates Court for failing to carry out repairs at Seacoast Road, Downhill. The case is due to be contested later this month.