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Sunday 18 March 2018

Irish soldier and young family left homeless despite 17 years with Defence Forces

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Stock picture

Cillian Sherlock

AN Irish soldier, his wife, and their four children are currently homeless as they struggle to make ends meet - despite his 17 years with the Defence Forces, and her part-time job.

The family, who wish to remain anonymous, includes four children aged 11 and under, one of whom has a rare genetic disorder which results in a range of physical problems.

"I’m heartbroken and trying to wear a brave face every day but deep down I’m worried sick," the Defence Forces corporal said.

"I work damn hard and my family doesn’t deserve to be homeless. I don’t know what to do or where to turn to."

He is due to travel abroad on a mission with a UN peacekeeping force in the near future.

The family's plight was highlighted in a statement from the Wives & Partners of the Defence Forces (WPDF) group.

WPDF has previously protested about pay and conditions in the Defence Forces, saying the families of many lower paid members are so financially stretched that they are using social welfare financial supports to make ends meet.

In the latest case highlighted, the soldier's partner - who works part-time in a local shop in Kildare- has described their situation as "heartbreaking".

"It sounds so silly and simple when I say it out loud: a full time working soldier and a woman part-time working in a shop and we’re on HAP (Housing Assistance Payment),” she told

"We’re working people. I would’ve worked more hours – the child care is way too expensive. I have to work when I can and I have to be home for my kids," she added.

She said the pay in the Defence Forces is ‘dreadful’ and added that her husband has been subject to pay cuts.

Since cuts in 2009, basic pay for a private in the Defence Forces starts at €352 a week and rises after eight years’ service to a total package of €670 a week.

"That’s why we’re here. That’s why we qualify for the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)," the woman said. .

This family can now pay €1,200 per month for rented accommodation but some landlords and estate agents have deemed the family unsuitable due to the HAP scheme.

Their eldest daughter has a rare genetic disorder which leads to heart, breathing, gastrointestinal and urinary system problems, as well as learning difficulties.

"Our oldest daughter is 11 and she has Apert Syndrome. She has had over 50 surgeries. It takes up a huge chunk of my time as mam," her mother explained.

"That’s the reason we need a particular sort of house as dust and mould affects her breathing. My partner has had to personally resuscitate her a number of times,” she said.

The family, from Co Kildare, were recently informed by their landlord that he was selling the house.

Their other children are eight, six, and four years old.

The family have since found it impossible to find an alternative home in Newbridge and Curragh region.

She said their family has had to move within the private rental market five times in the last 10 years.

"Mostly it is from landlords selling the property. That is the case now. Where we’re living now has a really good landlord. The lease was up in July but he’s letting us stay until the 31st. He’s been really good to us, in fairness,” she added.

She said this is their first time using the HAP scheme and they have found it extremely difficult to get viewings.

The WPDF have highlighted the importance that the family stay in the region as the children’s schools and family’s GP are all in the Curragh.

The father is also travelling overseas on a UN peacekeeping mission in the near future.

The family have relatives in Kildare who have been supporting them.

The WPDF has called for the family to be housed or given a council mortgage immediately.

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