Traveller family ordered to vacate Clare social housing site

Traveller family ordered to vacate Clare social housing site

A Traveller couple who demanded their family, including five adult sons, be provided with bespoke housing have been given until the end of the month by the Court of Appeal to get their caravans off an unauthorised roadside site in Co Clare.

The Appeal Court last November found Bernard and Helen McDonagh and their family were trespassing and must vacate the council-owned site on the Cahercallamore on the Ennis to Kilrush Road. It is just 50 metres from what had been an official halting site at Ashline, which was occupied until 2012 by the McDonaghs until they left following a fire.

This week, the Appeal Court Ms Justice Máire Whelan gave them until May 31st to leave, having noted previously the occupation of the Cahercallamore site was the fourth instance in short succession they had done so.

Council order

Clare Co Council, in October 2019, got a High Court injunction ordering that they leave the Ashline site on grounds including that they had surrendered the original tenancy. Ashline is now earmarked for social housing.

The council then took proceedings over the Cahercallermore site after the McDonaghs moved in there. The McDonaghs later built a road into the site and provided a hard surface courtyard for their caravans.

In opposing the Cahercallowmore injunction application, the McDonaghs said they were entitled to the exclusive use of a site for them and their five of their adult children.

They argued their position was based on the "principle of compatibility" and they were not in a position to take up the council's offer of accommodation in the nearby Beechpark Traveller site in Ennis.

They said “this would be out of the question for one family to do to another, unless coerced into it”.

Six dwelling houses

The court noted that, in effect, what the McDonagh's were seeking at that time was the exclusive use by them and of a wholly refurbished Ashline site of six dwelling houses.

This was only to be a family-site which they claimed was "always intended since 1969, when the land was first offered to the Traveller community for accommodation by the Diocese of Killaloe for their needs for permanent homes.”

The deed for the Ashline land did not identify any such limitation on use or ownership and the council denied its existence. The court said the McDonagh claim was therefore "no more than a bare assertion".

The McDonaghs also argued if they were moved they would have nowhere to go and claimed their rights under Irish and the European Convention were being breached.

Previous offers

The High Court found they had previously been made and refused a number of offers of accommodation on the basis that it is not Traveller-specific and could not accommodate the extended McDonagh family.

The High Court granted injunctions sought under planning law by the council and the McDonaghs appealed.

Rejecting their appeal in November, the Court of Appeal said, among other things, the offers of accommodation by the council were reasonable.

It was clear the McDonaghs "formed an intention to refuse all offers", insisting the council provide them with six houses exclusive for their use and that of their children, and their partners/spouses and children, the Court said.

This demand, made in the middle of a national housing crisis, was not reasonable.

"The conduct of the appellants was tantamount to asserting a veto over accommodation offered, a right which was not established to exist".

In follow up orders this week, Ms Justice Whelan, for the Court of Appeal said that following its decision in November, the McDonaghs had been asked for an undertaking they would leave by December 31st last.

Due to an administrative oversight the matter was not brought to the attention of the court until last month.

Ms Justice Whelan said in the circumstance she ordered them, and all associated with them, to remove their caravans, vehicles and associated property from Cahercallamore by 6pm on May 31st.

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