A Clare school principal has intervened in a bid to secure emergency accommodation for a Traveller family living in “sub-human living conditions”.
Ennistymon National School principal Helen Sheridan has expressed grave concern at the physical and mental health of Caroline Sherlock and her seven children as a result of living in a small caravan on the side of the road in North Clare.
In a letter to county manager, Tom Coughlan, Ms Sheridan said five of Caroline’s children were “visibly shaken” by their ongoing accommodation crisis, when they returned to school in September, despite the best efforts of their teachers to help them settle back.
The principal noted that her five children were good attendees and are all doing well at school.
However, she said: “The children are pale and anxious and frequently tell teachers they are suffering from stomach pains.”
The council stated there is one vacant family home in Traveller accommodation in Ennistymon that is available to Traveller households with a housing need.
A spokesman said: “There are also two units undergoing refurbishment that will be available in the near future. All households approved for social housing support are entitled to avail of financial supports to assist with private rented accommodation in their area of choice. The draft Traveller Accommodation Programme 2014-2018, currently on public consultation, outlines the council’s plans for future provision of Traveller accommodation.”
Having known Caroline for the last seven years, Ms Sheridan described her as an “excellent mother” who was very supportive of the work carried out at the school for her children.
She confirmed two of her children have special educational needs, have access to a special needs assistant, and have frequent appointments with HSE personnel.
Caroline’s family is living in a small caravan at the side of the road without electricity or running water.
“They don’t have enough beds or space for the family and have no toilet or washing facilities. Caroline and I are very concerned about the safety of her children,” said Ms Sheridan.
“Their caravan is located next to a beach, a river and on a very dangerous bend on a well-transited road between Lahinch and Miltown Malbay.
“Cregg Beach is frequented by rowdy drinkers on weekend nights. Caroline can’t let the children out to play because of dangers posed by road, river, and sea. These subhuman living conditions are taking their toll on the physical and mental health of Caroline and her children.”
She implored the council to find suitable accommodation in the Ennistymon area for the family.
Dr Michael McGovern described the family’s living conditions as “wholly unacceptable” in a letter to the council. “I have an ongoing concern for the welfare of Caroline and her family. All the more so now the weather has become cold, particularly at night. I saw two of the children in my surgery with respiratory tract infections. One of the children fell in the caravan and cut his lip as there is no proper lighting,” he said.
If a council house cannot be provided, Caroline requested a mobile home so that her older children will be able to sleep in separate rooms and have heat and a place to cook meals.
She claimed the family could not find suitable rented accommodation because of “prejudice” and were told by council staff there were no local authority houses available.
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