A Traveller couple living on a ‘tip’ of a halting site in County Galway have appealed to the authorities to find them a proper home.
Newlyweds Martin and Ann-Louise Ward say they are living in squalor at Capira temporary halting site in Portumna, despite Galway County Council recently carrying out an upgrade worth €125,000.
They are one of three families (eight adults and three children) living at the halting site because they say they have nowhere else to go. They have no use of shower facilities on-site, there is a sewage problem with the toilet facilities and a problem with rats.
“There was construction work recently on the site and that has stirred up a rat problem. We are concerned that a nest of rats has been disturbed – we can hear them at night,” she said.
The Wards agreed they are living at the County Council site without authorisation but said they have nowhere else to go.
“We’ve effectively been homeless for two and a half years,” said Ms Ward.
She said they want to start a family but have had to delay it until they are housed. “The thought of putting children through this is unthinkable so it has been put on hold,” said Ms Ward.
“We don’t want to be here. We just want to settle down. The site is like a tip. We’ve cleaned it since the last tenants moved on to Dublin but it’s not a safe place to live in.
“The water isn’t drinkable – there’s a strange white chalk in it. We don’t have any shower facilities. If we want to wash we have to go to the nearby gym or we have to use the public showers at the Shannon. We don’t have a washing machine and we have to wash our clothes in the town once a week.
“During the snow and Storm Ophelia this year we had no electricity, it was so cold in the caravan. The site is neglected. I’m five foot two and the grass is up to my waist.
“We have asked Galway County Council but they said they cannot help us. We don’t want to be there but we’ve nowhere else to go. We are there illegally, none of us have a tenancy, but where else can we go? I want to be housed. I want a home. I’m from Tuam and my husband is from Galway City and all we want is somewhere to live and start a family,” she said.
Fiona Whyte has three children and a Traveller partner, who have been living at Capira for three months, having previously been on the side of the road in a caravan. Ms Whyte doesn’t have tenancy but doesn’t want to be there either.
“It’s not safe for my children. I’ve a toddler and a child going to school and they can’t even go outside to play. The state of the place. The Council workers wouldn’t live here and yet they expect us to put up with these conditions. It’s not being maintained, there is construction going on here and it’s not safe. The water is contaminated. We’ve been on the waiting list for years. I need a house. I need a home. The Council just keep ignoring us,” said Ms Whyte.
A spokesperson for the County Council said stage One of works at Capira temporary halting site commenced earlier this year. These works involved converting two of the four existing welfare units to provide shower facilities and enhance the kitchen and dining area and toilet facilities, doubling the size of the welfare units.
The contract costs for these works was €125,000 and the works are now substantially complete, resulting in a significant improvement in facilities. The plan is, subject to funding from the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to advance stage two of the works over the coming months.
These proposed works include the renovation of the two remaining units to the standard provided by the works carried out in stage one, together with surface water drainage works and other site improvements.
The spokesperson added: “The responsibility for the maintenance of the site is a shared responsibility between the Council and the residents.
“The site can only be appropriately maintained with the input and co-operation of all the residents. There are currently a number of unauthorised occupiers on site and this has presented challenges in the Council’s ongoing efforts to manage and maintain the site.
“The water supply at the site is from a public mains. The Council has never received any prior reports of poor-quality supply, however, the issue will be referred to Irish Water.”
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