Local politicians have shown their support for a Harryville pensioner who has had a heating oil burner stolen twice in the last 10 months.
Thieves stole a burner from the pensioner’s Larne Road home last November causing oil to contaminate the backyard which was subjected to further contamination recently when a replacement burner was also stolen shortly after being fitted by the NI Housing Executive.
UUP MLA Robin Swann branded those behind the thefts as “scum”.
He told The Times: “The theft was bad enough but there are also the environmental problems as well as the cost of the lost oil.”
DUP MLA Paul Frew was critical of the Housing Executive’s response to the incidents, claiming: “When the burner was stolen the first time it took the Housing Executive weeks to replace it, they left inadequate blow heaters for use in the house.
“The heating oil had seeped into the backyard so they took samples to ascertain the level of contamination. The Housing Executive only decided to remove the soil in the backyard early July. Over half a year later. The backyard now looks like a building site with a large crater in it. “Now with this latest theft by mindless idiots the heating oil has again spilled out and filled the crater,” he said.
Harryville DUP Councillor Martin Clarke added: “This is having a devastating effect on the health of this pensioner. When you park the car in the area the smell and fumes hit you so it is having an effect on the whole community, a community that has rallied round this elderly person.”
An NIHE spokesperson said: “We have now replaced the burner for a second time and provided extra security to secure it. We will also speak to the tenant to see if we can reach agreement on any further measures we can put in place to combat this vandalism. Unfortunately there has also been oil contamination to the soil and we have brought in specialist contractors to address this serious issue.
“We are very aware that this ongoing problem has all been very distressing so we did offer temporary accommodation while the problems were resolved,” said the spokesperson who added that the tenant had decided to stay in their own home.
Pointing out that “pensioners are among the most vulnerable sections in our society”, Robin Swann appealed for anyone with information about either of the thefts or any suspicious activity in the area to contact the police.