‘We don’t want to lose our homes’

A Dungiven man who could lose his home if the A6 Derry to Dungiven dualling scheme goes ahead has spoken of his frustration at the uncertainty surrounding the multi-million pound project.

A six-day Public Inquiry is being held in Limavady this week, with more than 100 objectors scheduled to explain the impact of the scheme on their lives and livelihoods.

Among them is Seamus O’Kane from Dungiven, who built his home 25 years ago and reared a family of five there with his wife.

In the current plans for the scheme, Mr. O’Kane’s home, along the existing Foreglen to Dungiven Road, will be demolished to make way for the new carriageway.

“We will lose our home and we’ll have to move,” he said. “It would be devastating, but there is not much we can do about it.”

Mr. O’Kane accepts the need for a carriageway, but says he is “caught in the middle”. He stresses he has no dispute with staff from the Department of Regional Development and Roads Service. He said they are doing their job and any time he has met with them it has been positive. He says his frustration lies with the politicians who he said need to determine whether they will have the funding for the scheme, instead of leaving those affected by it in a state of limbo.

“Not knowing is worse. If we knew what was happening we could plan ahead,” he said, adding: “When we built the house 25 years ago we thought we were safe enough; it’s the home place. We’ve reared our family there and thought we would die there. It looks like that’s not the case.”

Other objectors whose farms and land is affected say it will have a devastating impact and say the plans don’t consider the emotional impact on families.

“We know there are others who are worse off than us,” said a farmer, whose family have farmed in the Dungiven-Feeny area for generations, “but you work hard to keep the land, especially in these tough economic times. You get very disillusioned, and it’s at the back of your mind all the time.”

The farmer said the family accepted a need for the Dungiven bypass, but that its current route means their privacy will be gone along with more than a dozen acres of land. While there will be compensation, the farmer said it’s not about the money.

“Farming is a way of life, and when you’ve worked every one of those acres, and then to see them go under tarmac, you lose heart,” said the farmer. “We’re the unlucky ones, but I know there are a lot of others worse than us.”

The Public Inquiry will resume on Monday and conclude on Tuesday.