'I fear I’ll end up dead like my two sisters unless I get help urgently' - woman tells of addiction battle after family’s double tragedy
A father whose two daughters died within weeks of each other due to drugs has said the lack of help available has left him in fear of losing a third as she battles her own heroin addiction.
In recent weeks, Edward McKay from Belfast has had to bury two daughters, Bridget (28) and Geraldine (30).
Now he fears for the life of a third, Catherine McKay (32), a mother of eight from west Belfast.
The family has already spoken out about how the deaths had left them feeling "destroyed" and have called for greater access to addiction and mental health services.
"I don't want my daddy to go through that again," Catherine said.
She said her addictions started around the age of 16 when she began taking painkillers.
"Today it's heroin, cocaine, tablets, everything. I've been speaking to people from a drugs outreach programme but they told me the average wait was six weeks to get any treatment."
The Belfast Trust has said in recent years there has been "significant" growth in demand for Opioid Substitution Therapy and accepted the average waiting time of six weeks for assessment was greater than they wished.
It's understood Ms McKay will now be seen within two weeks, but she said the easy availability of drugs in Belfast scared her.
"If I see somebody when I'm out for a walk, it's a simple case of them saying, 'Do you want this' and I'll say yes.
"I'm going to end up dead. I don't even know how to explain it."
Their father Edward said he felt angered by the delays many addicts are facing.
"I've already lost two daughters, I don't want another one dead," he said.
"I just think it's disgusting when someone asks for help and they normally have to wait six weeks.
"Are they serious? It's a long time to be sitting waiting with nothing when she's actually volunteered to go in and stay for help.
"I just want people to wake up, when a kid asks for help they should get it. Not just sent away, it's senseless.
"They're all getting paid to do their job and they're not doing it. The way I look at it is if you break your leg you go to hospital for help, they don't tell you to come back in six weeks.
"Why don't we take addiction as seriously?"
In 2017, there were 136 drug-related deaths in Northern Ireland, with 80pc due to drug misuse, compared to 80 deaths in 2007.
Government figures show the majority of deaths were males, which increased by 98pc over the same 10-year period. With females, this remained largely unchanged at 35 drug-related deaths.
In March, a Government report also showed alcohol and drug-related deaths were four times higher in deprived areas of Northern Ireland.
Catherine McKay's youngest sister Sinead (18) had previously told the Belfast Telegraph of the devastation the loss of Geraldine and Bridget - who had five and four children respectively - had caused.
"They were very caring and kind, over-protective of all of us," she said.
"It can change a family and it destroys a family. You don't see the same person anymore."
Mr McKay's partner Clare Rea added: "Once they start, their family can see them deteriorating in front of their eyes.
"And no matter what the family try to do, once the drugs get a hold of them it's just too hard. Don't take them - you have to fight and say no.
"We wouldn't wish this on anybody."
- Read more: Drugs robbed children of their mothers, says family of loving sisters who died just weeks apart