Evicted Travellers still on Dundalk roadside with no water

Families say site was to be ready by October but council says work only starting now

A group of Traveller families who were evicted from an unofficial site in Dundalk in January, are still living on the side of a road – despite assurances that they would be accommodated.

The seven families, including six young children, are among 23 families who were evicted from Woodland Park, a former official Traveller halting site, on the outskirts of Dundalk, Co Louth, on January 15th.

The site had fallen into disuse since 2008 but a number of extended families had moved onto the site in April 2015. They say they had reconnected the water supply, arranged rubbish collection and provided their own electricity generators.

Armed gardaí

Louth

County Council

, however, cited fire safety concerns after an inspection in December, saying it had to move the families off the site for their safety.

The eviction, involving tow trucks and armed gardaí, was described by families at the time as “heavy handed”.

Some of the mobile homes were impounded and while families with children were placed in B&Bs, around half of the families moved their caravans to a car park beside a nearby fast food outlet. They were evicted from that site in May.

Having been moved on by gardaí from a number of sites since – seven families are now on Hoey's Lane, a side road near the Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Some caravans are on the road while others are pitched up on a verge by a hedgerow.

Among them are three families with children all under the age of 10.

Ethel McDonagh, who talked to The Irish Times in January as her mobile home was being removed, has three children – Olivia (9), Savannah (6) and Lacey (3).

She has no toilet or running water. Every day, she fills a milk churn with water at a local garage, which also lets the family use its bathroom. “Since we were moved off from the KFC carpark, we have just been moved and moved and moved.

“As far as I can see, the council evicted us from a place we were happy. We weren’t having any trouble there. They said it was because of health and safety. Well, look at where we are now,” she said.

“Every time the guards come, the children are clinging on to me, saying, ‘the Garda are coming, the Garda are coming’. They get scared we are going to be moved again.” She says her children have been ill and not sleeping at night, while cooking, laundry and keeping her children clean is impossible.

“Stressed? Stressed is not the word. I try to be strong for the children because if I fall apart everything goes.

“I am trying to reassure them all the time but, inside, I feel like I’m falling apart.”

Another mother, Ellen Quinn, and her husband moved their caravan to beside her mother's rented house in Bailieborough, Co Cavan. They have three sons under the age of six.

She is also expecting a baby in four weeks and travels with her husband and children when they make the 100km round-trip to their school in Dundalk every week day. “I want to keep things as normal as possible for them. School is the one thing they still have here in Dundalk.”

The families are anxious to move back to Woodland Park. In March, the council said it would be refurbished.

“We were told it would be ready by October,” said Ms Quinn. “That’s this week and nothing has happened there.”

A spokeswoman for Louth County Council said: “Work to refurbish Woodland Park is scheduled to begin this week. It is anticipated this work will take 12 weeks. The bays will be allocated according to the council’s allocation scheme. A number of families have either been housed or remain in emergency accommodation.”

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times