As the homelessness crisis worsens, a number of Traveller families evicted from their homes in County Louth have been told to put their children into care in order to secure accommodation.
Three mothers, who were among more than 70 people evicted from the Woodland Park halting site on the outskirts of Dundalk, said they were told a solution to their housing situation was to have their children placed in foster families.
Brigid McDonagh, a single mother of a five-year-old girl, said one official “told us the women could go to the Women’s Aid refuge in Dundalk, the men could go to a homeless hostel in Drogheda and [the official] would arrange for the children to go into care”.
She said she asked “what about my situation?” and was told “same as the others”.
Ms McDonagh said: “It would make you afraid to go near the council now. You’d be afraid all the time they’d take your child from you.”
Some 23 families were evicted from the unofficial site since Friday, having been given 48 hours to quit on Wednesday, January 13th, reportedly on health and safety grounds.
A lawyer representing the families plans to take a human rights case against Louth County Council.
Local Sinn Fein TD Gerry Adams said the matter had been handled “disgracefully”.
In a row in the Dublin parliament over the evictions, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams disputed the government’s claim that the council wanted to ensure suitable Traveller accommodation. He said the most cost-effective and commonsense resolution was the release of the necessary funding to upgrade the site.
His comments were echoed by Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger, who said “there is no necessity to evict these families from the site to make it safe. These safety issues could have been addressed while leaving those families in situ.”
Mr Adams described the eviction on health and safety grounds as a “shameful action”, done without consulting any local authority councillors. He said the last five families were to be evicted today.
He said those evicted included 22 children and that some of the women, including at least one pregnant woman, had to sleep in a car for the past three nights.
Condemning the two days’ notice given to vacate, Ms Coppinger hit out at the authority for failing to send a delegation to the site, to engage with the Travellers, or to find out how the health and safety issues could be rectified.
Ms Coppinger said it was “incredible that the first response of the State to Travelling people since the tragedy at Carrickmines is to use that event to evict 23 families”.
BANKS OVER HOUSES
Ironically, the shockingly poor safety standards of official emergency accommodation were exposed in a television documentary expose ‘My Homeless Family’, which aired on RTE television on Monday.
The coalition government is now under pressure to send in child welfare officials to inspect the housing being offered to homeless families.
Responding to the continuing outcry over the homelessness crisis, the Taoiseach blamed what he said was the “total collapse” of the construction sector. But he ruled out increasing rent supplement to financially assist those unable to pay escalating rents.
“The real problem is the supply of houses and increasing rent supplement only exacerbates the pressure on the existing housing stock,” he said.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams accused the Taoiseach of preferring to invest in collapsed banks rather than housing.
He said homelessness increased by 93pc in 2015, but at the same time, just 28 local authority houses were built.
“There are now over 5,100 citizens in homeless accommodation, including 1,638 children,” he said.
“No doubt some of those children will read the 1916 Proclamation in their class rooms during this centenary year. What will it mean to them? What does it mean to the Government?
“We know where the Government stands of course. They would rather cherish all the bankers than all of the children of the nation equally.”