Flooded pensioner left sat in the dark

Council sorry for slow response

Friday, 22nd July — By Charlotte Chambers

Monica Sweeney IMG_6801

Monica Sweeney at her flood-wrecked home in Highcroft Road

A PENSIONER who rebuilt her life after being shot during the troubles when she was growing up in Northern Ireland, has said she “will never get over” a devastating flood in her Hornsey home.

The catastrophe left her sitting in a dark and wet council house for 12 days.

Monica Sweeney, 71, first noticed water running through her light sockets and down the walls at her Highcroft Road home in April and initially thought it was raining outside.

But this was the start of her nightmare: when a workman arrived on behalf of the council, he hit a mains pipe and was unable to stop water pouring down. The flooding left her wading through around two inches of water on her ground floor.

The retired hairdresser, who was shot six times in Belfast aged just 18, said she was left without electricity or lights for 12 days after the workman left. She had been told by a housing officer that someone would call round the following day, but instead Ms Sweeney was left living with drenched furniture and sodden carpets for nearly two weeks – she said she was “forgotten about” – before anyone got in touch.

By the time she finally heard from the council, she had been prescribed antibiotics by the doctor after developing a chest infection.

“I was stuck with this soaking wet place and afraid to move one way or the other – I was thinking to myself my God what if the ceilings cave in?” she said.

“You know, all sorts of things go through your mind because you’re kind of traumatised.”

The following day, a surveyor came, took one look at her home and she was booked into a hotel for three weeks.

“The water was pouring all down the stairs, all down the bannisters, into the ceilings, through the plugs, through the light switches,” she said.

“I haven’t got over it since – I’m not the same person anymore.”

She is no longer able to take her grandson for long walks like she used to, and can not get through a day without crying. Months later, she is still living amongst chaos.

The grandmother, who has visible breathing issues climbing her stairs, said the £300 she has been offered to cover any broken items falls far below the thousands it will cost her to replace everything that is damaged.

“I’m not asking for a fortune – just an acknowledgement [the damage] was their responsibility and to stop fobbing me off and give me enough to replace the things that are lost,” she added.

A council spokesperson said: “We want everyone to have a place to call home which is secure, decent and genuinely affordable, and are very sorry for the distress this incident has caused to Ms Sweeney.

“We regret that our contractor damaged a pipe while working at her house, which caused damage to her home and possessions. We have reviewed the conduct of the contractor and their handling of this unacceptable event.”

They added: “We have now undertaken all of the repairs in her home and settled her compensation claims for the damaged items. It is really important that residents are assisted when things go wrong, and it seems that we could have offered more support on this occasion – we are reviewing the handling of this case and will learn from it. We will continue to work with Ms Sweeney to support her wellbeing.”

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