Council launches action against homeless family who took over vacant house

The Doyle family
The Doyle family

A local authority has launched a legal action against a couple, who were living on the street with their five children, that have moved into a vacant council house without permission.

Longford County Council wants High Court orders against John Paul and Frances Doyle, who moved into the house at Casey Court, Keenagh, Co Longford, some days ago.

The council wants them to hand over possession of the property as well as an order restraining them from entering or re-entering without lawful authority.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan granted the council permission to serve short notice of the injunction proceedings on the Doyles.

The application was made ex-parte, meaning only one side was represented in court.

The judge adjourned the matter for a week.

The couple are on the local authority's housing waiting list, the court heard.

The judge was told there was some urgency to the matter because the council have offered the property to another family on the list.

The house had been vacant for a time before the Doyles moved in.

Frances Doyle (36) and her husband John-Paul (36), decided to move their five young children into the abandoned council house in Casey Court, Keenagh, after struggling for six months to find a home.

Frustrated by their dealings with Longford County Council, the family decided to take action and moved into the three-bedroomed council house that was lying empty.

Speaking to the Sunday World last week, Frances Doyle outlined the family's problems in getting suitable accommodation.

"The Council doesn't want us here, but they wouldn't put us up anywhere else. If they want us out, they will have to find a home for me and my family," said the defiant mother.

"This house has heating, it has water, and it has three bedrooms. Why should I be risking the health of my children when this house is lying empty?"

The Longford woman says her eldest daughter (13), suffers from a serious heart condition, which has wors­ened due to the stress of the family's circumstances.

"She was in school just before the Easter break and she got a pain in the chest and down her arm. The doctors told me she needs a stable home for her condition to improve, a proper bed to sleep in.

"Until we began squatting here, she was sleeping on a cold floor. We shouldn't have to go to these lengths just to get our children a bed for the night.

"I don't want to be squatting, but I've got no choice. We were homeless for six months and got no help from the Council. We spent two months sleeping in the back of a jeep, for God's sake, and heard nothing from them. What do they expect?"

Some 293 families, with about 600 children, have been left without a home so far in 2016, according to Focus Ireland.

The Government's own figures show that there are 912 families living in emergency homeless accommodation across Ireland at the moment.

Frances, her husband John-Paul and their five children, Gorana (13), Frances (10), Willie (7), Mary (4) and John-Paul Jnr (2), became homeless last November when their landlord asked them to leave their former home.

After staying with friends over Christmas, the family spent close to two months sleeping rough in the back of their jeep, before deciding to occupy their current home on Tuesday.

"I spent all that time begging the council for a home and got nowhere. It's like I'm being pun­ished," said Frances.

"The children have slept better in the last three nights than they have in months. We can't take that away from them now, not unless they've another bed to go to.

"We spent Christmas on the floor of a home of a family member, who already has seven children crammed into a three-bed home.

"We did the best we could for the kids, but it wasn't the same. It was heartbreaking, honestly, not having them waking up in their own beds and running down to the tree in the morning."

According to the desperate mum, she and her husband would be more than happy to start paying rent for the three-bedroom home.

Council officials visited the family on Wednesday and warned them that they were illegally occupy­ing the site. A spokesperson for Longford County Council said he was aware of "what's happening in Casey Park" and that "the council would take appropriate steps to deal with the matter", which it has now done.

"We've more than 1,200 families on the social housing list in Longford. Illegal action such as this deprives those applicants from having their needs met," he added.

David Kearns