Monday 21 May 2018

Homeless family secures court order preventing council moving their caravan from site

Stock picture
Stock picture

Aodhan O'Faolain

A homeless family has secured a temporary High Court order preventing Wicklow Co Council from moving their caravan from a site they have been staying at for several weeks.

The action was brought by John Paul Moorehouse and his wife Barbara who along with their two young children have been staying in a small caravan at a site at Priests Newtown, Kilcoole, Co Wicklow since early May.

Late last month the council issued a notice directing the family to quit the site.

However the family, who are members of the Irish Traveller Community and have been homeless since April, say they have nowhere else to go.

In their High Court proceedings against the Council the family say the notice is flawed as it does not provide details of an alternative site where they can move their caravan

Their barrister Siobhan Phelan SC said the family had come to court over fears of becoming "roofless as well as homeless".

Their caravan could be impounded and the family prosecuted if they did not move from the site at Priests Newtown, counsel added.

At the High Court today the family secured a temporary injunction preventing the Council from impounding their caravan on foot of the notice to quit, which has been issued under the section 10 of the 1992 Housing Act.

In addition the court placed a stay on the council prosecuting the family on foot of the notice to quit pending further order.

The Moorehouse family also gave an undertaking to the court that they would co-operate with the council by moving their caravan to a site offered by the local authority.

The injunction was granted on an ex parte basis, where only one side was present in court, by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys. The Judge made the matter returnable to a date later this month.

After granting the order the Judge said he hoped that something could be worked out between the parties.

In a sworn statement to the court Mrs Moorehouse, who is expecting the couple's third child, said she understood some people in the locality were unhappy the site at Priests Newtown  has been occupied by members of the Traveller Community.

She said that shortly after they arrived somebody  let off gunshots which they believe was a warning to them to leave the lands.

The Gardai, she said, called to them and gave them a number to call if there were any further acts of intimidation.

Mrs Moorehouse said she and her husband, who are both from Co Wicklow are very concerned about their family.

Seeking the injunction Ms Phelan SC, instructed by solicitors for the Free Legal Advice Centre said the family have been on the housing list for several years, and the local authority is well aware of the Moorehouse's situation.

Since becoming homeless they have been unable to secure alternative accommodation for either the council or in the private rental market.

The family had been living in private rented accommodation, but had to leave after it was deemed unfit for human habitation mainly due to damp by Wicklow Co Council. 

Counsel said since they became homeless all the council have been able to offer the mother and children were "three nights" emergency accommodation in a hotel while Mr Moorehouse slept in his van.

The family then borrowed money to pay for a small touring caravan.

Before arriving at their current location they have spent short periods of time at various locations in Co Wicklow  before being moved on.

On one occasion they stayed at a small halting site in Delgany, Co Wicklow for two days but the caravan was removed and impounded by the Gardai.

After negotiating with the Gardai the caravan was returned to them.

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