Belfast Telegraph

Glentoran FC boss Mick McDermott and wife Karla win fight with Home Office after her visa was refused

Karla McDermott with her husband Mick (Belfast Live)
Karla McDermott with her husband Mick (Belfast Live)
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Glentoran football manager Mick McDermott and wife Karla last night learned that they had won their battle with UK immigration authorities for her to live in Northern Ireland.

Karla McDermott (43) has spent the past eight weeks 4,000 miles away in Dubai awaiting a Home Office decision as the couple, who have four children, try to set up home in Newtownabbey.

She had hoped to return to Northern Ireland this week, but news came through on Thursday that Karla’s application to live here with her family had been refused.

“She almost had a heart attack when news of the Home Office refusal came through on Thursday,” Mick told the Belfast Telegraph last night.

But the couple appealed the Home Office decision, and last night were told that a “paperwork error” had been made, and that Karla — who was born in California and holds a US passport — would be able to pick up her visa within days.

“Once she picks the visa up — that should be on Monday or Tuesday — she can fly back home as quickly as possible,” Mick said.

Having worked in football all around the world during his coaching career, Mick (45) was appointed as manager at Glentoran FC in March this year.

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He and his family had been looking forward to settling on the outskirts of his home city of Belfast.

But the experience has been far from simple and has left a bitter taste.

“The Home Office processes are broken,” he said.

Karla and Mick McDermott with their daughters Kali (19) and Kiera (17) and sons Malakai (9) and Michael (12) (Belfast Live)
Karla and Mick McDermott with their daughters Kali (19) and Kiera (17) and sons Malakai (9) and Michael (12) (Belfast Live)

“Their system doesn’t work, their processes don’t work. Their online portal is not fit for purpose.

“They outsourced their document handling processes to a third party, so they don’t handle their own paperwork. Their whole system is broken.

“Thousands of families across the UK go through this process, and something needs to be done,” he added.

“We’re just one out of thousands of families who have gone through this — and I’m glad I was able to bring the issue to public attention.”

Three of the couple’s four children are settled in school locally and the eldest is attending Queen’s University.

Mick has been under pressure to keep family life as normal as possible while taking on the responsibility of managing one of the biggest football clubs in the country.

Mick admitted he would have thought twice about taking charge at Glentoran had he known it would put almost 4,000 miles between his wife and their children for such a long time.

“Seventy-five per cent of visa application rejections are overturned on appeal — that alone tells you there is something wrong with the processes,” he said.

“It was a failure to collect the relevant documents by a third party, a clerical error.

“But I know we’re not the only family having to go through an unnecessary process that puts so much pressure on families who just want to be together.”

The drawn-out immigration process to the UK meant the Home Office required Karla to leave Northern Ireland several weeks ago to trigger her visa application.

Mick, raised in Glencairn, and Karla have travelled extensively throughout their marriage as his football coaching career has taken him around the world.

The couple met in the USA 25 years ago while they were both on sports scholarships at Rhode Island University and married when Mick was 21 and Karla 19.

Four children followed — Malakai is only nine, Michael is 12, Kiera just turned 17 and Kali (19) is studying at Queen’s and comes home at weekends.

Mick’s career in football has seen him work with some of the biggest clubs in the Middle East, and with the Iranian national team, where he worked alongside former Manchester United assistant and Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz.

The pair led Iran in the 2018 World Cup in Russia and were set to move to the Colombian national team. That fell through for Mick, but he was delighted to take up the challenge of reviving Glentoran.

“When I look at things now, it should really have been a simple process for my family to move here. I was born and bred here,” he said.

“Had we known what moving back to Northern Ireland was going to put the family through, we’d definitely have had second thoughts about coming to live and work here. Why would we put the family through this, the kids in particular?

“This isn’t our choice and it feels like families are being treated as a number.

“There’s a human element to this. Children need their mother.”

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