A Traveller family has vowed to resist any attempts to force their removal from a site in Cork City after a standoff with armed gardaí yesterday.
The Traveller Visibility Group (TVG) last night condemned attempts to tow the O’Reilly family’s caravan from the city council-owned site in Blackpool where they have been living for some nine months.
TVG spokesperson Breda O’Donoghue said they will provide the family — parents Martin and Kathleen, who are both unemployed, and their children aged three and one — with whatever support they need to ensure that they can remain on the former Hammond Lane yard until alternative accommodation is secured for them.
“They were traumatised by what happened today. They have nowhere to go,” she said yesterday.
However, a spokesperson for City Hall said the site had been secured, and was entered, and is being occupied, illegally.
She added: “This site is one of several city council sites which have been earmarked for social housing for some time. We have agreement from the Department of the Environment to fund housing projects and we are close to finalising a scheme on this site.
“This is a key site for the delivery of our social housing targets and we need to have vacant possession to advance those projects.”
The council has secured a court date in October to advance the matter.
It is understood the family left the site temporarily on Tuesday, and returned late that evening or early yesterday.
At around lunchtime yesterday, employees of a private security company and uniformed gardaí, backed by members of the armed regional support unit, arrived on the site in an attempt to tow the caravan. But as the caravan was hitched to a jeep, Ms O’Reilly and her mother-in-law, Bridget, sat on the tow-bar.
TVG representatives arrived on site, and checked the family’s legal rights. A two-hour standoff ensued during which two horses were impounded.
The security staff finally unhitched the caravan, and along with the gardaí, withdrew from the site.
Ms O’Donoghue said the family was left deeply upset.
“Kathleen was due to go for a medical procedure at 5pm and she wanted to get into the caravan to get a few things, and clothes for her children, and they wouldn’t let her in. She was in tears, she was distraught,” she said.
“They’ve been on the social housing list for seven or nine years. They were referred to the homeless unit last year and Martin was told go to the Simon shelter, and Kathleen was told to take herself and her kids to the Edel House refuge. That would split up the family.
“They have nowhere to go. They will be homeless if they’re moved on.”
But the council spokes-person insisted that the couple isn’t on the city’s housing list, and have not made contact with their homeless services.
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