Clare Co Council wins case against Traveller couple over social housing site

Orders include a permanent injunction preventing defendants from trespassing on site

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Clare County Council has won its High Court action against two members of the Irish Traveller community over a site the local authority has earmarked for new social housing units.

Mr Justice Senan Allen found that the council was entitled to various orders against Bernard and Helen McDonagh in respect of lands at Ashline, Kilrush Road, Ennis, onto which the defendants moved their caravans in November 2017.

The orders include a permanent injunction preventing the defendants from trespassing on the site.

The judge, in his judgment, also dismissed a counterclaim brought by the McDonaghs who had argued that they were entitled to occupy the land as they had a tenancy at Ashline, and had been promised a house on the site.

It was also argued that the council had failed in its statutory functions under the 1998 Housing Traveller Accommodation Act.

The council claimed the McDonaghs unlawfully moved their caravans onto on the Ashline site in late 2017 after heavy machinery removed bollards preventing access to the property.

The McDonaghs had previously resided at the site, which was a designated site for Traveller accommodation between 1997 and 2012.

They left after the facility was damaged following an arson attack the site. The council claims the site is unsafe to live at and uninsurable due to the damage sustained from the attack.

The defendants moved on from Ashline to different locations in the Ennis area after the council brought High Court proceedings against the McDonaghs.

The McDonaghs had opposed the action, and in their counterclaim argued the site was the subject of an existing tenancy agreement between them and the council.

They also claimed the tenancy agreement was wrongfully breached by the council and that the council told them they would be able to return to live at the site after it was refurbished.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Allen rejected the defendant’s claims and counterclaim. He said he was satisfied that the tenancy had been surrendered and the couple was not entitled to occupy the site.

He also rejected claims from the couple that they had a legitimate expectation that the site would be redeveloped as Traveller-specific accommodation.

He noted the council has promised to offer one of the proposed social housing units to the McDonaghs.

The council, who he said are the owners of the land at Ashline, were entitled to their permanent injunction preventing the McDonaghs and their servants and agents from trespassing on the site.