Northern Ireland

Downhill pensioner has electricity installed after 29 years

A County Londonderry pensioner who has spent 29 Christmases without electricity is hoping he will not have to spend this year by candlelight.

On Friday, 78-year-old John McCarter said men were outside his home working on a temporary connection.

Mr McCarter successfully campaigned to have electricity installed along his road three years ago.

However, he did not get hooked up like his neighbours.

At the time, the pensioner was told Northern Ireland Electricity would charge him £67,000 to link his home, on the Seacoast Road at Downhill, close to Coleraine to the grid.

The company had said the high cost was due to cables having to go underground in an area of special scientific interest.

The home that he has lived in since 1983, has been heated by two open coal fires, with candles providing his only light.

Dark, long evenings

Mr McCarter said he had stayed in the house because he liked its idyllic setting, nestled under the cliffs looking out to sea.

Following help from the older people's commissioner and Age Concern, the 78-year-old said he believed he would have electricity by Saturday.

"It's been off for me for 30 years, I'm really looking forward to seeing it come on," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme.

"I'll probably find it a bit difficult for a while during the changeover, however, it will be very welcome as the weather is now starting to get a bit colder.

"It's not so much even the cold, but the darker, long winter evenings with no electricity and trying to pass the evening with two candles."

He said he was not worried about his first electricity bill as he used a lot of candles.

The pensioner said he wanted to have a 'pay as you go' meter installed and was looking forward to possibly getting a television.

'Terrible shame'

Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People, has been described by the pensioner as "a wonderful woman".

"I have visited him in his home and talked through his situation with him," she said.

"It is a terrible shame and damning indictment that Mr McCarter has had to be involved in legal proceedings for some three years to try to get his landlord to agree to and carry out the installation of electricity - a most basic utility - to his home.

"Without electricity Mr McCarter, lives in a house which is cold, dark and in which he has been subjected to repeated and complex legal processes which have made him feel vulnerable and harassed."

The commissioner added that she would continue to take an interest in this case until a long-term solution was found.

John's landlord, Coleraine solicitor Fergus McIntosh, appeared in court last year as he had failed to comply with a notice of unfitness on the property, served by Coleraine Borough Council in February 2011.

More on this story