Louth evictions: ‘Our lives have been turned upside down’

Traveller family says they were given just hours to pack belongings at Dundalk site

 

Ethel McDonagh had her mother-in-law come and collect her two older children from their home yesterday to spare them seeing it towed away.

“They aren’t taking this good,” she says, sitting in her neighbour’s mobile home on the Woodland Park site on the outskirts of Dundalk, Co Louth.

She, her husband Christy and their children Olivia (8), Savannah (5) and Lacey-Leah (2) were one of the last six families on the unofficial Traveller site yesterday morning.

Louth County Council has moved to evict all 23 families, the majority of whom are part of the extended Quinn-McDonagh family, saying the site is unsafe.

Eviction notices were served last Wednesday and up to 40 gardaí, including members of the Emergency Response Unit, arrived on site shortly before 9am on Friday.

Families say they were given just hours to pack their belongings and either remove their caravans or mobile homes themselves or face them being impounded and having to pay €1,000 to get them back.

All families must be gone by tomorrow.

Yesterday, Ethel and Christy McDonagh packed up the family’s belongings into a car and emptied their mobile home, which they say they will have to sell as they have nowhere to keep it since being given notice.

Housing list

The family moved to Woodland Park last April.

“We had been staying in someone else’s back garden, here in Dundalk, for two years but it wasn’t great.

“So we got this mobile home and we came here. We had nowhere else to go. We’ve been on the council housing list for Traveller accommodation for years,” Ethel McDonagh says.

“When we came here, we all cleaned up the site. We rigged up the water ourselves. We got portable loos. We got electricity generators. We made it very nice and we were very happy.

“We were all together, weren’t getting in anyone’s way. If the children were out playing, we knew everyone was keeping an eye on them.

“We were away visiting family last week and came back on Wednesday to find the eviction notice slapped on our cabin.”

The notice from An Garda Síochána, a copy of which was posted on each mobile home, says: “You are directed to leave the land concerned and to remove from the land any temporary dwelling , vehicle or object belonging to you or under your control . . . You may also be arrested without warrant if you fail to comply with a direction given.”

Riot shields

“The site was full of guards. Some had riot shields. Children were terrified. My children were upset all weekend.

“When I was putting them to bed they were asking, ‘Mummy, are the Garda coming to take our home?’ I had to say, ‘I don’t know baby, not tonight.’ But I couldn’t even be sure.

“Our lives have been turned upside down by this. I couldn’t even get my children to school today with all this, the worry, the packing. I don’t know where we’re going to go. The side of the road again, I suppose,” said Ms McDonagh.

“We thought when we had put so much effort into the site the council would do something to make it official, with services.

“This is hard. This is so wrong what they have done to us.”