“We are devastated and feel alone in this world with no one to help us”

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ONE of the largest families in Northern Ireland has received news they are to be evicted from their home amid the worst public health crisis to hit the UK and Ireland.

John and Tessa Donoughue, from Saintfield, Co Down, who recently welcomed their 12th child, Molly, say they are devastated their landlord has told them they must leave their home by June.

The family, who are already making-do living in a three-bedroom bungalow, are upset they have to move house again as the owner is planning to sell.

The Donoghues say they have moved ten times in the last 12 years as the Housing Executive struggles to find a property big enough for them all.

While new measures came into force in England and Wales to stop landlords from evicting tenants for three months, a measure announced by the Communities Minister in Northern Ireland stopped short of introducing a similar move.

With the world virtually in lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic John (43), says society is growing less tolerant of large families.

Amid the panic buying phenomena of recent weeks he describes that during a regular shopping trip to his local shop, an assistant told him he wasn’t allowed to purchase as many packs of nappies as he had taken from the shelves.

“While this may seem like a particularly funny incident to many, I can assure you it’s just one of many scenes which my wife and I encounter each day,” he said.

“Before panic buying, our average weekly shopping trolley looked like something from supermarket sweep.”

Tessa (35) laughs at the idea of policing social distancing in their home. She added: “Saying good night in our household sounds more like a classroom roll-call.  Our eldest daughter, is also called Tessa. She is 15 and is a great help to me. Then there is Bobby, (14), John (9), Savannah (8), Joseph (7), Sinead (6), Shannon (5), Ronnie (4), Reggie (3), Tommy (2), Clarice (1) and little Molly who is four-months.”

Tessa says the family have nowhere else to go and it is evident that the constant cycle of having to uproot the children time and time again is having an impact.

She said: “We have approached a local MLA to see if he can help us and as yet we are still waiting on his response.

In a recent GoFundMe page Tessa set up to help raise money to buy a home for them all, she said: “Our landlord gave us notice to move because he is selling the house.

A local SDLP MLA, Colin McGrath responded to the family’s crisis for this article. He said: “It is essential that people know that regardless of the make-up of their family that should they require assistance, the state will offer what support it can. This support should not be restrictive, prohibitive or bureaucratic.”

The Donoghue family have applied to the BBC1 programme, DIY SOS–Big Build, for help to build their ‘forever’ home.

If you wish to help the family please visit their GoFundMe page using the link: https://gf.me/u/xtub5h