Horse dispute delays Travellers’ move to new houses

Some of the new houses built at Cabragh West, Thurles.

By Conor Kane

A group of Traveller families have said they will not move into a €1.7m development of new houses which the local council has built for them unless stables and land are provided for their horses at each house.

The dispute has arisen at Cabragh Bridge outside Thurles, where members of an extended Traveller family have lived for about 50 years and centres on the construction of six houses on a site opposite their temporary settlement.

Tipperary County Council said it is in “discussions” with the people involved to try and resolve the problem.

The houses — two five-bedroom and four three-bedroom — are all but complete but for some minor issues which have to be resolved by the building contractor. However, the Travellers living across the road say they will not be occupying them unless two stables and at least half an acre of land are included behind each dwelling for their horses.

The development of the detached houses, with concrete walls to the rear, wooden fencing and a stone wall at the front, took over two years to build at a cost of €1.7m.

“They were to be built with a half-acre behind each house, with two stables,” Philip McCarthy, one of the residents of the site at Cabragh Bridge, said at the weekend. “They [Tipperary County Council] changed it to a group project, like a mini-housing estate. The agreement was two stables and a half an acre for the horses, but they never came up with that.”

Mr McCarthy, who is in his 40s and who has lived at the Bridge all his life, said the council made the original agreement with his late father, William McCarthy, over a decade ago.

However, the council maintains it has provided what it said it they would provide.

“Our livestock is our culture, and a big, big part of our life,” Mr McCarthy said. “We’ll have to come to some sort of agreement, because otherwise it’s no good to us.

We have paddocks here and stables and stuff, which is not across the way [in the new development]. It’s a beautiful project and we’re happy with the project, but there’s no room for the livestock. That’s what’s holding us up at the moment. They want us to drop our culture and throw it aside. It’s a very, very hard thing for us to do. It’s in our life, we’re going back centuries.

Tipperary County Council said it is waiting on the contractor to finalise some outstanding issues with the construction.

“The council is also seeking vacant possession of the existing unauthorised site and is in discussion with the families in respect to same,” it said.

Asked if there is any sign of the houses being occupied, the council said: “Discussions are taking place amongst the parties with a view to resolving the matter at the earliest possible timeframe.”

The matter is likely to be raised at today’s meeting of Tipperary County Council.

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