Irish Republican News · October 20, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Father wins rights to abandoned NAMA property

He was on the housing list for five years and, out of desperation to find somewhere to call home, eventually resorted to squatting in one of the thousands of empty houses in ghost estates littering Ireland.

And this week a judge allowed him to continue living there when she threw out a case to force William Tuohy from his new home in Tullamore, County Offaly.

It is hoped the case could pave the way for thousands awaiting suitable accommodation to fill abandoned housing estates which are set to be demolished by the government’s ‘bad bank’, the National Assets Management Agency.

Mr Tuohy had appeared before Tullamore District Court charged with ‘trespassing’ in the house. But Judge Catherine Staines dismissed the case, saying there was no evidence that he had intended to commit an offence.

Mr Tuohy, a father of seven who is originally from Mountmellick, County Laois, moved into the house four months ago.

There are around 250 houses in the estate, with a further 20 unfinished. Around 30 of the completed homes are unoccupied.

Now his children -- who are aged between eight and 29 -- can visit him on the weekend.

“I’m delighted to have somewhere nice for them to come into. It’s lovely to have somewhere where you’re not worrying about what’s going on outside,” he said.

“I picked a house at the very front but unfortunately, when I went to move into it, somebody had broken in and robbed the tanks out of it and the houses all along that block,” he said yesterday.

He said he was frank with gardai when they visited him.

“I explained straight out what I was doing. I told them I was claiming squatters’ rights using adverse possession to the property,” he said.

Speaking after the judge dismissed the garda prosecution for trespass, Mr Tuohy, who has been on the housing list in Tullamore for five years, said he tried all the vacant properties in the estate until he found one with an open door.

He connected the electricity, painted the walls, put down flooring and dealt with a serious mould problem that developed while the house was vacant for three years.

There were no electrical appliances so he bought his own but said much of the furniture had been donated by family and friends. He said he had paid around two thousand euro on the house and that the money had made it “very habitable”.

The case was dismissed because, after seeing photographs of his new home, the judge said there was no evidence he had intended to commit an offence.

“I was kind of surprised when she went with me -- the guards seemed to have everything wrapped up. As far as I was concerned it didn’t look good.

“She might have put me out of the house but I knew she was going to be fair with me, maybe give me a month or six weeks to get a place.”

Lawyer John Hughes explained that his client had been left to his own devices in the house and, as they had recently learned the name of the owner, who is in NAMA, Mr Tuohy would like to pay rent and arrears.

Mr Tuohy said he planned to stay in the property.

“I just want a place of my own, somewhere to bring my kids at the end of the week, with no headaches.

“I can’t understand why somebody like the council can’t take over these properties and rent them out to people. It’s a shame. There are so many people on the housing list.”

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© 2011 Irish Republican News