Couple ordered to remove caravans from unauthorised roadside site

Pair failed in bid to have six homes for them and five adult sons provided on specific Co Clare site

The Court of Appeal (COA) last year found Bernard and Helen McDonagh and their family were trespassing and must vacate a Clare County Council-owned site at Cahercallamore on the Ennis to Kilrush Road.

The Court of Appeal (COA) last year found Bernard and Helen McDonagh and their family were trespassing and must vacate a Clare County Council-owned site at Cahercallamore on the Ennis to Kilrush Road.

 

A Traveller couple who failed in an attempt to have their family, including five adult sons, provided with housing on a specific site in Co Clare, have been directed to move their caravans off an unuathorised roadside site by May 31st.

The Court of Appeal (COA) had last November found Bernard and Helen McDonagh and their family were trespassing and must vacate the council-owned site at Cahercallamore on the Ennis to Kilrush Road.

That site is just 50m from what had been an official halting site at Ashline, which was occupied until 2012 by the McDonaghs, who left following a fire.

The COA’s Ms Justice Máire Whelan this week gave the family until the end of the month to leave. She noted this was was the fourth time in short succession that they had occupied the Cahercallamore site

Clare County Council had in October 2019 obtained a High Court injunction ordering the couple to leave the Ashline site on grounds including 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 there. The McDonaghs later built a road into the site and laid a hard surface area for their caravans.

Exclusive use

In opposing the Cahercallamore injunction application, the McDonaghs said they were entitled to exclusive use of a site for them and five 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. That “would be out of the question for one family to do to another, unless coerced into it”, they said.

The court said what the McDonagh’s were effectively seeking at that time was exclusive use by the family of a wholly refurbished Ashline site of six dwelling houses.

This was to be a family site only and they claimed that 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 McDonaghs claim was therefore “no more than a bare assertion.”

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

The High Court found they had previously been made, and had refused, a number of offers of accommodation on the basis it was 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 COA 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 exclusively for use by them, their children and their partners/spouses and children, the COA said.

Not reasonable

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

“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 CoA, 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 ordered them, and all associated with them, to remove their caravans, vehicles and associated property from Cahercallamore by 6pm on May 31st.