An elderly brother and sister whose centuries old cottage in Magilligan was left in a poor state of disrepair after storm damage last year are being encouraged to look to the Housing Executive for help.
There had been calls for the Department of the Environment to step in and help the elderly pair with funding to repair the damage due to the building’s age and its value in terms of built heritage.
Edward Quigley (69), and his sister Eileen (72) have lived all their lives in the cottage without running water or electricity.
Their nephew, Mark Canning, has been calling for action to help the couple following serious damage to the cottage during stormy weather left the home in a “dangerous condition”.
However, East Londonderry MLA George Robinson pointed out at Stormont that no funding had been forthcoming from the Department of the Environment and challenged the Minister responsible to explain the situation.
He said: “Will the Minister give a reason why he and NIE have refused to help two pensioners with critical repairs to their thatched cottage home, which is a vital part of our built heritage in the Magilligan area, after he visited them and promised to do everything he could for them?
“For some reason, he refused to meet my colleagues and me about the dire situation these pensioners are living in.”
Mr Durkan: “I did indeed visit the constituents of the Member at Seacoast Road, Magilligan. I saw at first hand the conditions in which they live. The Member states that the Department ‘refused’ to help those constituents of his.
“However, our records will show that, as far back as 2008, those pensioners — I am not sure whether they were pensioners then — were encouraged to apply for a listed building grant.
“Unfortunately, they did not do so at that time. They did not do so at any time between 2008 and 2015, when they finally made an application.
“As I said, Members will be aware of the tough budgetary situation that my Department faces and the lack of money for such projects.
“I said that I had ring-fenced £500,000, which I managed to get out of the carrier bag levy. Regrettably, while this was able to benefit some projects, legislation dictates that any money that is generated through the carrier bag levy can be spent only on projects that have community benefit.
“Unfortunately, that house does not match those criteria. However, what we have done — my officials have been very proactive — is to work with the residents of the thatched cottage and bring in other Departments, including DSD — the Minister of which is the Member’s party colleague — to get the Housing Executive on board to ensure that something can be done to help those people.”