THE last family living in a vacated estate, earmarked for demolition, say they are living in fear after a spate of arson attacks.
The Carey’s — the only residents in Ardmore Estate in Knocknaheeny on Cork’s northside which is earmarked for regeneration — pleaded with Cork City Council last night to end their ordeal by offering them a house nearby that suits their needs.
And they also pleaded with the council to beef up night-time security during the demolition work.
“It’s terrifying and frightening. And with the worry and stress, I’ve had sleepless nights. It would get you down,” Imelda, 66, said. “I spend more time at night looking out the front window.”
Gangs of youths are climbing over the security fences and using the vacant houses as drink and drug dens.
Imelda’s son, Declan, said fires are an almost nightly occurrence and they just don’t feel safe in their own home anymore. “There are gangs hanging around here every night. How could you feel safe?” he said.
“We feel forgotten by City Hall. They’ve moved every body else out and we’re the only ones left. Every other house is boarded up.”
His parents, Imelda, and Frank, 70, moved into their terraced house on Ardmore Avenue over 40 years ago.
They bought the house from the council 35 years ago and have raised eight children there. They are among just 14% of residents in Knocknaheeny who own their own homes.
But the council told residents two years ago it planned to knock all the houses in the estate as part of the multi-million North City West Regeneration Project. It offered the tenants replacement homes in Shanakiel, Coppinger’s Acre or The Meadows, an unfinished estate nearby.
All of the Ardmore Avenue residents, except the Carey’s, have relocated. But the Carey’s said none of those properties suited their needs. They have also rejected a council offer of €85,000 which it claims is current market value for the house.
Demolition crews moved in to Ardmore Avenue in mid-January but the Carey’s have vowed to stay put until they get the right house, or a better offer.
“We paid for this house hard over the years. My house is as I like it,” Imelda said yesterday.
Across the green outside her house, bulldozers knocked her former neighbours’ homes.
“That’s the late Mrs Kelleher’s house going there,” she said, as its walls and roof were torn down in a cloud of dust.
“But this is my home. We raised eight children here, sent them to schools and college. We’ve been happy out here for 40 years.
“I don’t drive but I can do all my jobs here — the credit union, the doctors, chemist, the church are all nearby.”
Imelda’s next door neighbour of 30 years, Teresa O’Mahony, was a council tenant and was one of the first to relocate to Shanakiel. “I didn’t want to go but I had no option,” she said.
“Imelda’s right to hold out though. I’ve seen some of the houses she was offered — one, we were told, was vacant for 15 years; one was completely overgrown and others had 10 steps up or down to the door. They just weren’t suitable.”
Declan says the family is determined to stay put even if the council pursues a compulsory purchase order.
“We’re going to wait until we get what we feel we deserve,” he said.
“If they had dealt with homeowners properly in the first place, there would be no issue now.”
Imelda said: “I just want them to rehouse us where we want to go and offer us a house where we want. But we’ll only be moving to a house, not a home. I didn’t think I’d have to be making a new home, at this hour of my life.”
A council spokesman declined to comment on individual cases but said a full consultation process began with local residents over a year ago. And he said no house will be demolished until agreement is reached.
But the Carey’s said the council had failed to deliver on several pledges made during the consultation.
“They said a lot of things that didn’t come true. They said they would keep neighbours together — they didn’t do that,” Imelda said.
“We have no intention of going anywhere. I’m not going anywhere until I get what I want in the right place.”
Local councillors also declined to comment on the case because it is understood there are ongoing discussions between legal teams for both parties.
The entire regeneration plan will see the demolition of old houses and the construction of new homes across vast swathes of Knocknaheeny and Hollyhill over the next 10 years at a cost of €75m.
There are 87 units in phase one which will cost €12.4m over 20 months.
The plan also includes proposals for a shopping centre, an indoor sports complex, a library, and a new road through the grounds of St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital.