Belfast Telegraph

Couple still in limbo months after church wall collapse

By Brett Campbell

A couple say they are dreading another winter spent shivering in their home after it was badly damaged in a church wall collapse nine months ago.

John (68) and Noreen McCartan (59) expected the extensive damage caused to their property in February to be repaired within weeks.

But their home is still minus a side wall and they now face a lengthy legal battle.

The church's insurance company is blaming the planner and builder of an extension to the the couple's property in 2015 for underming the wall that collapsed.

"We have been left in limbo and are sitting wrapped in layers and being forced to go to bed early in the evening, it's the only way to keep warm," Mrs McCartan said.

"Another winter is approaching and it's already getting really cold, yet we have a piece of wood and a bit of fibre covering up a gaping hole in our house."

She said the cold and damp had resulted in "very uncomfortable" living conditions.

The Dean of Down expressed sympathy over the McCartans' situation, but said previous inspections of the church wall did not flag up any concerns. Rev Henry Hull said his "hands are tied" and that the legal wrangle had to be resolved properly.

"Our insurance company is of the view that the wall was undermined by building work at the McCartans' side before it fell," he added.

"Nothing in our inspection notes suggested it was ever at risk of collapse, which is peculiar."

The clergyman said he hoped the "unfortunate" situation could be resolved soon, but the McCartans' solicitor is not so sure.

Ross White from Andrea Reid Solicitors confirmed that writs have been issued against a number of parties, including the church, and the builder and architect involved in the extension.

"The case has been filed with the court. We are confident but it is now a waiting game," he said.

Mrs McCartan, whose own home insurer refused to cover the damage and then cancelled her policy because the house is not safe, isn't interested in finger-pointing.

"All we know is that we didn't pull the wall down," she said.

"No one from the church pulled it down either, but it came down and we need it fixed."

Belfast Telegraph

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