A CORK county councillor highlighted the pressures he is facing during the pandemic while living in a mobile home without electricity, toilet facilities or running water.
For the last seven years, Castletownroche man, councillor Frank Roche has kept a vigil by his family home after laying an unsuccessful claim to the land. He came to media prominence after he was ordered by a judge not to intimidate anyone on the land.
However, he revealed he is willing to squat until the bitter end and, with support from the community, has been able to do just that. After becoming elected to the council he now keeps his work clothes at a friends who allows him the use of his washing facilities.
The bachelor explained how his relationship with his family soured after the death of his mother Betty in 2013 and a dispute over family land.
Although life has changed even more dramatically since the pandemic, Mr Roche has been surviving with the help of friends of neighbours.
For the last few years he has been using the shower facilities of a neighbour.
“I use their bathroom but take my own shampoos and soap,” he explained. They’ve never asked me for anything in return.”
Mr Roche said he is now able to return the kindness shown to him by his community.
“An elderly lady, who lives close by, would let me come over to fill my water bottles," he said.
"I’m trying to return the favour now that she’s cocooning so I leave her the odd bag of coal or whatever she needs. The community has been very good to me and it’s nice to give back. They know what I went through so they’re always very kind.”
He described a typical day for him since the covid-19 outbreak.
“The thing about it is I only have myself to think about.
"I live close to where I’m working so that’s saved me on travel costs. I go out to buy my dinner everyday. Before I was able to eat lunch in a seated area of the garage. Now, I have to take it to go.
"I’ll usually sit down to eat it in my car and that can be lonely sometimes. I have a dog and a small pony and they are my family.”
"He described how he is still coming to terms with the situation as the family home sits unoccupied.
“At 50 years old I cried myself to sleep. I don’t cry myself to sleep anymore but I have woken up crying. It’s affecting me from the inside out now, whereas before it was affecting me from the outside in.”
Mr Roche said he has become accustomed to the conditions he lives in.
“When I go away for work and have to stay overnight for a conference it’s strange. I find now that when I go away to a hotel I can’t sleep because I’ve got so used to sleeping in the cold. One of the things I’ve been experiencing is pains and ankles in my feet which I’m afraid it might be arthritis from the cold.”
He said that his case is “by no means an isolated one” among bachelor farmers.
“There are 55 elected members in the county council but I don’t think anyone thought that there would be a homeless person among them. It’s nice for people to have someone to look up to. I’m in a strong position now because I know a lot of the senators. Like many people, a lot of them didn’t realise I was living in a mobile home because they hadn’t actually seen it. I’m not ashamed and I’m by no means an isolated case.”
Mr Roche had previously staged an unsuccessful election campaign before finally becoming elected as an independent for the Fermoy area in 2019.
“I stayed active enough for that period. In 2019 I put my name forward again as I had a wider support network at that stage. I counted 13 other bachelor farmers who joined my crew to help me get elected. They had all suffered in similar ways but got behind me to offer support.”