Families want stables for horses before moving into new homes
Tipperary County Council says it is in discussions to try to resolve the problem
Tipperary County Council said it is waiting on the contractor to finalise some outstanding issues with the construction. Photograph: iStock
A group of families have said they won’t be moving into a €1.7 million development of new houses which the local council has built for them unless stables and land are provided at each house for their horses.
The dispute has arisen at Cabragh Bridge outside Thurles, where members of an extended Traveller family have lived for about 50 years, and centres on the construction of six new houses on a site opposite their “temporary” settlement.
Tipperary County Council said it is in discussions with the people involved to try to resolve the problem.
The houses – two five-bedroom and four three-bedroom – are nearly complete but for some minor issues which have to be resolved by the building contractor.
However, the Travellers living across the road say they will not be occupying them unless two stables and at least half an acre of land are included behind each dwelling for their horses.
The development of the detached houses, with concrete walls to the rear, wooden fencing and a stone wall at the front, took over two years to build at a cost of €1.7 million plus VAT.
“They were to be built with a half-acre behind each house, with two stables,” Philip McCarthy, one of the residents of the “unauthorised” occupation at Cabragh Bridge, said at the weekend.
“They [Tipperary County Council] changed it to a group project, like a mini-housing estate... The agreement was two stables and a half an acre for the horses, but they never came up with that.”
Mr McCarthy, who is in his 40s and has lived on the bridge all his life, said the council made the original agreement with his late father, William McCarthy, more than a decade ago.
However, the council said they have provided what they said they would provide.
“Our livestock is our culture, and a big, big part of our life,” Mr McCarthy said. “We’ll have to come to some sort of agreement, because otherwise it’s no good to us. We have paddocks here and stables and stuff, which is not across the way [in the new development]. It’s a beautiful project and we’re happy with the project, but there’s no room for the livestock.
“That’s what’s holding us up at the moment. They want us to drop our culture and throw it aside. It’s a very, very hard thing for us to do. It’s in our life, we’re going back centuries.”
Tipperary County Council said it is waiting on the contractor to finalise some outstanding issues with the construction, and: “The council is also seeking vacant possession of the existing unauthorised site and is in discussion with the families in respect to same.”
Asked if there is any sign of the houses being occupied, the council said: “Discussions are taking place amongst the parties with a view to resolving the matter at the earliest possible timeframe.”
Philip McCarthy and another resident of Cabragh Bridge, who didn’t want to be named, both said that their solicitor is currently dealing with the problem.
They both said that there are up to 12 horses adjacent to their dwellings at any one time, but they don’t use the animals for sulky racing, of the type which has caused controversy in recent years. “We leave that to the big boys,” the other man said.
They estimated that about “50 or 60” people are currently living in the mobile homes and caravans at Cabragh Bridge, opposite the new houses.
“We’re coming up on 45 to 50 years here,” Philip McCarthy said. “The houses are lovely, you couldn’t ask for better homes. It’s the ground they let us down on.”
He said they only realised “about eight weeks before the project was finished” that the council hadn’t made provision for stables or extra land for the horses. “Where are we going to go with our livestock? They knew from day one, the livestock was always our priority.”
The matter is likely to be raised at today’s (Monday) meeting of Tipperary County Council in Nenagh.