Priscilla Harty with her family, Santana (5 months), John (2), Michael (7) and Tommy (8) | Picture: Michael Cowhey
“I HAVE four small kids, and I’m at the end of an estate in a caravan for the last couple of weeks, because I could get no rented accommodation. I can’t cope.”
Those are the words of a mother who has recently been made homeless, and is now living in an illegally parked caravan in Rathkeale.
Priscilla Harty, her husband Thomas and their four young children are all sharing the caravan, which is not connected to any utilities and does not have a working toilet.
“The house that we were in was rented. We always had a good relationship with the landlady, and she came one day to tell us that she was going to try and sell the house. She gave us three months notice, but we couldn’t find anything locally in that time,” said Priscilla, who is originally from Tipperary.
“I’ve a young baby of five months, I’ve another child of two, and the other two kids are seven and eight. This is impossible, even getting them to school, they’re not used to it. I’m really stressed, we don’t know what to do,” she said.
The family of six, who are members of the settled Travelling community, are on the housing list.
“The children have never lived in a caravan and they’re so stressed, and I’m so stressed as well to be honest, because we tried for rented accommodation and we couldn’t get any.
“The council will be taking us to court if we park at the end of the estate, and we know we are parked illegally – it’s a public plaza in an estate – but we feel like we have nowhere else to go at the moment,” said Priscilla.
The family has requested access to the halting site in Rathkeale, where they would be able to connect the caravan to utilities, but they were frustrated that they were being denied access.
“I have no washing machine, no toilet, no water, nothing. I just can’t cope. I have to use hot water from the kettle and put it into a basin, that’s the only way I’m managing.
“I’ve a generator, and we are trying to keep that going and everything, but it’s not fair on the neighbours with the noise, so we turn it off at night, and it gets cold. It’s so hard,” said the mother-of-four.
“It’s so stressful with them back to school. I have no way of washing their uniforms, it’s so hard. We asked for the halting site, because it has the toilets and a few facilities. We would have been grand there for a while.”
Priscilla claims that the council is saving the bays in the halting site for the influx of caravans at Christmas. “Come on now – there are 11 bays free at the moment.
“There are signs as well, saying that there are no caravans allowed in Rathkeale, that if you have a caravan you have to come into the halting site. We know the rules and we are trying. And yet they won’t let us into the halting site, with four young kids,” she said.
A source in the Council said that the halting site is currently undergoing upgrade works, which is the reason the family has not been able to enter.
The parents claim that they have contacted the Homeless Action Team, led by the local authority, to secure emergency accommodation, but it is understood that the Council has no record of their registration. A spokesperson for the council said that Limerick City and County Council does not comment on individual cases.
“Limerick City and County Council is committed to providing suitable accommodation to all of its customers.
“Limerick City and County Council is in regular contact with Traveller groups and works with the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee to deal with issues that arise.
“The Limerick Homeless Action Team is available for people who are in need of emergency accommodation and can be contacted on 061 481212 or 1800 606060 (out of office hours).”