A Wexford man has vowed to fight to the bitter end to stay in his family home after he was told by Wexford County Council that he would have to vacate the property following the deaths of both his parents in the space of one year.
Thomas Fitzgerald was raised at 6 Monastery Avenue in Taghmon alongside his sister and two brothers. A council house, his parents James and Catherine had been paying rent there for in excess of 40 years. The family has endured a torrid time in the past year. On February 5 of last year, Thomas' father James passed away as a result of kidney failure and following a battle with illness. His mother, Catherine, endured her own battle with ill health and finally succumbed on February 28 of this year, just over a year after her husband.
'My mam died of lung cancer,' Thomas explained. 'We got the diagnosis and three weeks later she was gone.'
While Thomas had moved out of the family home before his father passed, he remained close by and ended up staying frequently at the family home to look after his ailing parents. Following his father's passing, this increased as he moved back in full-time with his mother to care for her, an arrangement which he only made official in November of last year.
While still reeling having lost two parents in such a short space of time, there was further devastation for Thomas when he was informed he would have to vacate his family home, just three weeks after his mother died.
'I rang the council the day after my mother died,' he explained.
'I just wanted to inform them that their tenant had passed away and to see about taking over paying the rent myself. I was told to fill out a change of circumstances form. A couple of weeks went by and I kept ringing, because I wanted to find out what rent to pay, and then I was told "you can't stay there" and I'd have to move out.'
Confirmation of this decision followed with Wexford County Council stating that Thomas needed to be living in the house for 12 months prior to his mother's death. He had officially only been living there three months prior.
Thomas maintains he had been living away from the family home in private accommodation for less than a year and in that time he had been regularly staying at the Monastery Avenue house to care for his parents.
Now he and his siblings are majorly concerned that they will lose their family home.
'I've contacted TDs and local representatives and I immediately lodged an appeal,' Thomas explained. 'However, as of Friday I've been told that my appeal was unsuccessful. Now it seems that the only path open to me is to wait until they enact a possession order and fight it through the courts. I'm committed to see this through to the bitter end though. They'll have to drag me out of here kicking and screaming.'
Last week, Thomas started an online petition in a bid to sway the council to leave him in his family home. So far it has obtained nearly 1,500 signatures.
A spokesperson for Wexford County Council said that while they could not comment on individual cases, the rules state that anyone seeking to inherit a council house must be living at the property for at least twelve months before the tenant's death.
'The rules are simple,' the spokesman stated.
'They're there to protect the tenant and the council. For the vast majority of people, it's not an issue. It does change when the person hasn't been living in the house. We currently have 2,500 people on the housing list in Wexford and it wouldn't be fair to deny these people a house either.'