And they’re furious that the council has built a new depot next door at what they claim is a cost of more than €100 million.
The community is so angry they are staging daily ‘human rights’ protests outside the Dublin City Council super depot in Ballymun, north Dublin.
Travellers had been living in caravans on the St Margaret’s park site, which faces the giant IKEA store, before chalets were built in 1997 to house the residents.
Since then, more than 50 families have made the estate their home, where they have raised hundreds of children.
The most famous resident among them is Hughie (28), who first found fame on Big Brother five years ago and later on Dancing With The Stars, Living With Lucy and First Dates.
“For about 15 years Travellers in this site have been protesting for better facilities, which should be more humane and liveable for people with disabilities and people with young kids,” explains Hughie, who owns his own chalet next to his parents’ home.
“People that live in this community are disadvantaged and the council has sometimes listened – but it’s never gone over the line where it needed to.
“Just over a year ago, the site was in such a derelict condition. The playground was smashed up, the roads had massive potholes. It hasn’t been tarmacked since the site opened in the 1990s. I’m a taxpayer, I’d like my taxes to go to stuff like that.”
The Travellers have staged four major protests in the past year.
“We started protesting because the council was building a massive depot on the land next to the site, which Travellers have lived off for 50 years.
“That was land where they were hoping the council might build houses for the Travellers, so they can evolve and move forward in society but still within their culture,” Hughie says.
“They started protesting for those reasons. It has started to work. When you cause a bit of chaos, you disturb other people’s work and their plans because they are not upholding their end of the bargain, sometimes they can be backed up against a wall — that can start to help.”
Hughie and his community believe they are being penned in by the council depot on one side next to IKEA and an estate of ‘settled’ homes on the other side.
“The wall that they are building at the front of the depot is still being built – it’s 25 foot, and it’s taller near the Travellers’ site than it is at the non-Travellers housing, which makes us think ‘why are they building the wall down our end?’” he says.
“It just looks like a prison. The second you drive through the site, within 10 feet there’s a massive grey wall. I just think it’s disgusting.
“That building is being built for about a year and it has cost €100 million, so we have started a peaceful protest at the entrance to the building site.”
According to Hughie, the nearby council depot is causing other problems.
“The high walls and the new building blocks out light,” he claims.
“People fall over and injure themselves. Then you get other Travellers that come into the site, because there are Travellers who do bad stuff, and there’s lots of pillars surrounding the grass and the playground is now all gone, the council decided to take them down.
“People come in drunk and drive on top of the field where there’s kids playing. You could be sunbathing on the grass and someone could land on top of you. They said they were coming in updating the site and they have done half a job – we live on a building site.”
Hughie also says that conditions are poor for some families living in the area.
“Some people have better facilities than others, but they are facilities they have created for themselves,” says Hughie.
“They (the council) don’t care about people’s culture, that they know their entire lives, the older generation. I’m fine to live whatever way, because I’ve gone through school all my life.
“There’s no room to build anything else,” he maintains. “The land is taken up since 2006. They have deliberately done that, because they don’t want us here ... if they could have their way we wouldn’t be in here,” he alleges.
Asked would they not prefer to live in houses on the site, he retorts: “That’s like me saying to a Muslim child ‘would you not prefer being Catholic?’
“You need to remember there’s a fire hazard, look what happened in Carrickmines [where a fire on a halting site killed 11 people in 2015],” he points out.
“ You can’t just double up on yards. There are people doing that and the council should be regulating it and not allowing it to happen.
“The electricity is being double used as well.
“You have all the same families having to use all the same facilities in 2022 – it’s wrong.”
Hughie Maughan says he is smitten with the Galway accent after moving to the West
There are several areas of the estate the community wants action taken on.
“All we want is for the site to be updated for the people that need it.
“The playground to be fixed, the yards to be tarmacked because people are falling and injuring themselves.
“The streetlights to be working – only about a third of them work – the site is forgotten about, it’s like in the middle of nowhere.”
A statement from Dublin City Council said: “Significant upgrade works have been completed on site over the last 18 moths. The staff of the Traveller Accommodation Unit engage daily, with occupants on all of our sites – including St Margaret’s Park.
“The Traveller Accommodation Unit looks forward to working with the occupants of St Margaret’s Park to provide good quality, sustainable housing through the planned redevelopment.”