Jacqueline Hanlon and her four children slept in the sittingroom of her small, two-bed flat in Dublin’s south inner city. It was the only room in her home of 13 years that, she says, wasn’t covered in mould and damp.
“We all had to sleep in the sittingroom so we wouldn’t be affected and get sick, but we couldn’t do that forever. It didn’t work. We had to move back into our rooms,” she says.
Ms Hanlon, a resident of the Oliver Bond flat complex on Usher’s Quay, has mould lining the window sill and ceiling of the bedroom she shares with her two-year-old child. The wall by the window is wet to touch and there is condensation covering the glass.
Her three other children, aged 19, 18 and 13, share the second room, which has anti-mould paint in a bid to prevent them from getting ill. She will move her youngest into that room as soon as he is old enough to sleep in a bed.
The council has installed two vents in the flat, in a bid to reduce the mould and damp in the premises, but Ms Hanlon says it hasn’t helped.
“I had to move my room around to keep the baby away from the mould,” she says, pointing to the cot in the corner furthest away from the window.
“My son Cillian has asthma. I have a two-year-old baby that is constantly in the doctors with chest infections. Constant infections.”
People are putting duct tape on their single-glaze windows to try to keep in the heat. They’re stacking up pillows at the doors and windows— Gayle Cullen Doyle, a resident and chairwoman of the Oliver Bond residents’ group
In the Dáil recently, People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith said people in the Emmet Buildings and Oliver Bond flat complexes are living in “disgracefully damp and mouldy conditions”.
“I happened to be with a local schoolteacher who teaches in St Brigid’s National School in the Coombe and she mentioned to me the level of absenteeism of children not being able to attend school because of the impact that mould and damp has on their health,” the Dublin south-central TD said.
Gayle Cullen Doyle, a resident and chairwoman of the Oliver Bond Residents’ Group, says people cannot continue to live in these conditions, and immediate remediation is required.
Dublin City Council has a regeneration plan for the flat complex, which is one of the largest and oldest in Dublin, but says it will take up to 15 years to complete.
“People are putting duct tape on their single-glaze windows to try to keep in the heat. They’re stacking up pillows at the doors and windows. There’s overcrowding as well, but that’s not our fault,” says Ms Cullen Doyle.
Sometimes you literally have water running down your walls. But I take care of it myself and always keep the bedroom window open— Celine Kennedy, Oliver Bond flats resident
“There’s been nothing but problems with mould, damp, mushrooms, leaks. People can’t put their clothes in wardrobes, they’ve had to throw out clothes, schoolbags. If there’s a midterm break, they have to wipe the mould off their schoolbags. There are so many respiratory issues with children and adults and they don’t even realise what’s behind it. Children are constantly in and out of hospital with asthma and bronchitis and it’s all down to the living conditions.”
Celine Kennedy, another resident, says there is black mould in her bedroom but she considers herself “one of the lucky ones”.
“It’s not as bad as others. I know I can’t put a wardrobe up against one wall because the clothes would get damp. Sometimes you literally have water running down your walls. But I take care of it myself and always keep the bedroom window open,” she adds.
In 2021, the European Committee of Social Rights found that the human rights of local authority tenants continue to be violated by inadequate housing and housing that is damp, mouldy and rat-infested.
Residents have been told the regeneration of the complex won’t begin for another 34 months, according to Deirdre Smith, the Oliver Bond regeneration co-ordinator at the Robert Emmet Community Development Project.
“But that’s not adding in the unexpected things that might delay things. So it’s best-case scenario that it starts in 34 months. And that’s just the first phase, and we have five phases,” she says.
Dublin City Council did not respond to requests for comment from The Irish Times about what it was doing to assist those living in these conditions between now and the completion of the regeneration.