AN EXTENDED Traveller family who have been living without electricity or running water for 13 years have called on their local authority to start building a group housing scheme for which the Department of the Environment sanctioned funding almost a year ago.
The McDonnell family has been living on an unauthorised site at Dunsink Lane in north Dublin, described by Fingal County Council as “unsuitable”, since 1998. Though included in Fingal’s Traveller Accommodation Plan since 2004, they remain on a site with two outdoor cold-water taps, four outside temporary toilets, electricity from a diesel generator and no rubbish collection.
Following contact with the Department of the Environment in the summer of last year, the family received a letter in September from Aisling Glynn, private secretary to the then minister for housing Willie Penrose.
Ms Glynn said: “Approval in principle to Fingal County Council for the development of a Traveller group housing scheme at Cappagh Lands issued from this department last February. It is now a matter for the council to advance the development of the scheme.”
One of the younger family members Anne Marie (22) lives on-site with her seven-month-old daughter Kelly in a small though comfortable caravan which was warm on a morning late last month. “The coal stove is on since this morning, but in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning it is freezing.
The caravan has no insulation and windows are single-glazed. “She’s constantly getting head colds,” Anne Marie says, looking at Kelly. “We have electricity from a generator all the families contribute money for, but it is only for small things like lights and the telly. We can’t have a fridge or a washing machine. I keep the milk in the press and it only lasts a day. It’s warm by the end of the day and who wants to drink warm milk?
“I have to shop every day for fresh groceries, and we go to the launderette once a week.”
To wash, she fills a steel can with water from outside and boils it. The family go three times a week to a local gym where they pay €6 to use the showers.
“I hate living like this. Everything is just harder. If you want water you have to go outside. If you want to go to the toilet you have to go outside. If you want coal, you’ve to go outside. I just want to be in a house with my family around me.
“People ask why we don’t move to a rented house, but I’d feel isolated away from my family. A lot of my family have moved because they couldn’t take it here but they’re back visiting every day they miss it so much.
“We just want to know why the council haven’t started the building. And we’re worried that when they do get round to it the money will be gone.” A spokeswoman said the council acknowledged the McDonnell family had a “clear, identified housing need . . .
“Although the council does provide emergency sanitation and waste collection at the site where the McDonnell family is living, it is an unauthorised site and not suitable for the needs of the families living there.
“Fingal County Council is firmly committed to providing a long-term solution for this family at a new group housing scheme to be built specifically for them. This proposal has been given funding approval in principle from the Department of the Environment and the council is now working to make sure it happens.”