Traveller family evicted by local authority


LOCAL AUTHORITIES in Waterford last night evicted a couple and their three children, including twins suffering with Down syndrome, from their home at a city halting site.

Jimmy O'Reilly (23) and his wife Helen (22) said they were ordered to leave their home at Kilbarry halting site during a court sitting in Tipperary town on Tuesday.

Mr O'Reilly said he had lived at the site his "whole life".

Two of the children, twins Charmaine and Nikita aged 14 months, have Down syndrome and the associated medical conditions that require constant treatment. Travellers' rights campaigners last night called on Minister for the Environment John Gormley and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to intervene in the case.

Local outreach workers said Mr O'Reilly had a legitimate tenancy agreement with the local authority and said Waterford City Council sought and received a court order, forcing the family to leave the site by 5pm yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, the O'Reillys said they were told by a housing official that they could "set up camp" at a section of road near the Williamstown halting site.

However, Mrs O'Reilly said that their caravan was "too damp to stay in" and there were no running water or toilet facilities nearby. Mr O'Reilly said he could not live with his parents at Williamstown because there was "no room".

Council workers moved into Kilbarry and boarded up the windows and doors at the O'Reillys' home yesterday, while large boulders were placed inside the gates to the drive to prevent any vehicle from moving in.

Later yesterday evening, the family learned that they would have to spend the night apart, as accommodation would be provided for Mrs O'Reilly, the twins and her other son Jimmy (3) at a hostel for women.

Arrangements were made for Mr O'Reilly to stay at a men's hostel in the city. "We were in the court in Tipperary yesterday and the judge just said we had to be off by five o'clock and that was it," said Mrs O'Reilly. "He didn't give us no explanation; he just told us we had to go."

Mr O'Reilly last night added: "I don't know if I'm coming or going; I'm lost, I'm lost. I have nowhere to go; I need somewhere for my kids."

Waterford City Council was unavailable for comment on the matter throughout yesterday.

"This is one of the most shocking cases I have come across in over 10 years of work with Travellers," director of the Irish Traveller Movement Damien Peelo stated yesterday.

Joint co-ordinator of the Waterford Traveller Community Development Project Mary Kearney added: "We are just meeting a brick wall in this case. We are still waiting for Waterford City Council to furnish us with the relevant documentation we asked for under the freedom of information legislation pertaining to the tenancy."