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Friday 11 July 2014

Roma family claiming intimidation by neighbourhood win High Court order on housing transfer

Published 04/12/2013|16:01

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The order was made at Dublin High Court earlier today
The order was made at Dublin High Court earlier today

A ROMA family who claim they have been subjected to a prolonged and violent neighbourhood campaign of intimidation over their ethnic origin have won a High Court order quashing Dublin City Council's refusal to grant them priority for a housing transfer.

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Ion Zatreaunu and his four children, all of whom are Irish citizens, along with his wife, Cristina Stavarache, say the lives of some of them have been threatened since they moved to a council house in Greencasle Road, Coolock, in 2008.  

For the previous five years, they had lived in Artane and say they did not experience any problems with neighbours there.

But since moving to Coolock, they have been told on a number of occasions to return to their "own country" because they are "hated here", the High Court heard.

They have been subjected to a campaign of harassment and intimidation by certain local residents in and around their home, with the perpetrator of the majority of attacks being a neighbour, they say.

They say damage has been caused to their house and car.  They also say there have been racially motivated murders reported in the area and Mr Zatreanu believes his family is very vulnerable to a potentially fatal assault at the hands of criminal gangs.

Mr Zatreanu, who got the Coolock house after being awarded medical priority on the housing list due to a heart condition, twice unsuccessfully applied to be transferred under the council's "exceptional social grounds" scheme.

Following a third refusal, he bought High Court proceedings saying no reasons had been given for any of the refusals and seeking to  have the decision quashed.

Yesterday, Mr Justice John Hedigan granted the family an order compelling the council to reconsider their application and to afford them safe and suitable alternative housing in an another area pending permanent transfer.

The judge said the council manages 27,000 social housing units and there are between 12 and 15 applications every week for priority transfer usually involving tenants with serious social and personal problems.

He found the council's chief welfare officer, who deals with applications for priority transfer, had adopted the correct approach in initially not giving reasons for the Zatreanu refusal and then giving a brief outline of those reasons.

It was very understandable, he said, in making this contentious and delicate decision that the officer would not wish to add insult to injury by explaining to an unsuccessful applicant why his need was not greater than another's, the judge said.

He rejected an argument the welfare officer did not take account of the evidence of harassment and also found there was no lack of proportionality in making the decision.

However, he said, the officer applied too narrow a test in deciding that the violence and harassment were matters for the gardai and did not fall within the scope of "exceptional grounds" under the priority transfer scheme.

Such "incidents of law and order", as referred to by the officer in refusing the application, are not excluded from the scope of the exceptional grounds scheme, he said.  

The decision therefore could not stand and he remitted the application back to the council for further consideration.

Tim Healy

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