Traveller family 'living in hell' in Mitchelstown


Traveller family ‘living in hell’ in Mitchelstown

A traveller family who have been living in Mitchelstown for almost a quarter of a century are appealing to Cork County Council for a new home, as they have said that they are currently ‘living in hell’.

Thursday, 28 March 2013
12:00 AM GMT

A traveller family who have been living in Mitchelstown for almost a quarter of a century are appealing to Cork County Council for a new home, as they have said that they are currently 'living in hell'.

The McDonaghs have been in Mitchelstown for 22 years and they have been on their current site for the past 11 years, despite initial promises that their living situation would be a temporary measure that would last less than a year.

Speaking to The Avondhu, Arthur and Michael McDonagh spoke of the deplorable conditions in which they are currently living - without enough beds for the three families, no proper sewerage and living in conditions where the children are often sick and cold and cannot attend school.

Arthur said that they are all suffering from ill health, including his parents, because of the stress and that the 22 grandchildren can no longer visit their grandparents, because of the unsanitary, unsafe and hazardous environment.

Recent figures show that Cork County Council used just over €1 million for traveller accommodation in the past six years, even though they were given almost €6 million for the purpose.

The McDonagh's said that they never asked for anything because they were told that the money wasn't there, but now that they realise how much money was given back by the Council, they want to know where their share was and why their accommodation situation was never addressed.

"It's a crying shame, we were told the money wasn't there and it was," Arthur said.

Arthur said that the Council have told them that they will be knocking down the house on the site in the next two weeks and replacing it with shower and toilet facilities. But the family has said that this is not enough as they need a new place to live, a placee that is suitable for all families to live together in.

"If they are knocking the house, we will need something in its place," Arthur added.

While there is a toilet and shower in the house, the house itself is in a very bad state of repair, with leaks, broken windows and exposed wiring.

Due to the lack of heating, the bathroom is so cold that they could be exposing themselves to the risk of pneumonia by using it and because the septic tank is too small to facilitate use by so many people, it often overflows and leads to a situation where the children encounter raw sewage if they play around the back of the house.

Michael lives in a mobile home with his wife and four young children and he said that he often cannot send the youngest to school because they wake up cold.

When it rains, the rain comes through a hole in the roof and mopping it up has become par for the course; the duvets are damp because of the cold and wet that is getting in; rats and mice can access the home through the different holes and Michael said that the whole caravan is on the brink of collapse.

"It's scandalous. All I want is a mobile home that is suitable for my family. We are here three or four years in the same conditions.

"I have bags and bags of medication and I am suffering from bad health because of this. I have young kids and I don't want it to be the same for them."

Michael said that he tries to keep their home warm, but because of the water leaks, he has gone through a countless number of heaters and they have all blown and whatever heat he can provide is cancelled out by the draughts and holes.

"I need my children to be able to get up, go to the toilet and have a shower, but we don't have the facilities for that."

A HSE worker who wished to remain anonymous spoke to The Avondhu about the 'appalling' conditions the family were living in.

"They are living in horrific conditions for this day and age."

One of the McDonagh's has a small baby with another on the way and has nowhere to sleep, while another is in secondary school and has nowhere to shower, sleep or study.

Arthur added that they are living in misery and every time someone uses the bathroom, they are afraid that the roof will fall in because the structure has become so unstable over the years, with the water leaking through the roof and weighing it down.

"We are not looking for a castle, just a plain ordinary home. We are trying to get our family back into society, but we can't do that living like this," Arthur said.

A spokesperson for the Housing Department in Cork County Council refused to comment on the situation, saying that they would not comment on individual cases.

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