The Court of Appeal have supported a High Court decision that will result in forthcoming evictions from an illegal encampment in Ennis.
In a ruling announced last Thursday, the Court of Appeal stood by a High Court decision whereby Clare County Council were given powers to evict tenants of an illegal encampment in Ashline which has been in place since August 2018.
An interlocutory injunction had previously been issued as part of the long-running proceedings. Repeat orders had been made by the Court to restrain continuing breaches of planning law as well as trespass.
Accommodation offers made by the Council to the family in question were described by the Court as “reasonable” and said there was “an intention to refuse all offers” by the appellants as they insisted the local authority provide them forthwith with six dwelling houses for the exclusive use of the appellants and five of their sons, with the latter’s partners/spouses and children.
A standing commitment on the Council’s behalf to develop the lands at Ashline in conjunction with adjoining lands to provide forty units of social housing were noted as “significant”. The families in the illegal encampment will be offered permanent accommodation in the form of a dwelling house as part of this scheme. Four previous offers for what was deemed reasonable accommodation had been made and were rejected.
Criticism of the Council’s failure to zone any land for traveller accommodation in the County Development Plan 2017 to 2023 was detailed by the appellants. The local authority said all travellers are taken into account with the Clare Traveller Accommodation Programme. “A failure to facilitate a Traveller way of life” was another point put forward while they did not deny to breaching the planning legislation.
Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) said the decision to issue eviction notices was correct. “To see it in black and white and to see the addresses listed of where houses was turned down by members of the families in Ashline beggars belief. The tail can’t wag the dog, it has to work two ways”.
He stated that residents in surrounding areas of Ashline, Ballybeg, Rockmount and on the Kilrush Rd have expressed their relief with the outcome. “Their lives have been difficult for the last number of years to be looking at a blatant disregard for law and order and for the planning laws of our country. Many communities across the Municipal District are dealing with the challenges from the illegal encampments, there are a number of them going from Ashline to the Doora exit, we’re talking about fifteen caravans and seven mobile homes, it provides a big challenge for the Council to take on but this ruling gives us a bit of clout in taking on these illegal encampments”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the Clarecastle representative acknowledged there had been shortcomings associated with the provision of traveller specific accommodation. “Getting the appropriate sites has proven to be problematic over the years. As a member of the Local Traveller Accommodation Committee, getting the travellers to come to the table and find solutions has also been problematic, the Council can’t click their fingers and set up housing. The traveller bodies like Pavee Point, they haven’t engaged with the Council and the Council Housing Directorate have been trying to get them into meetings but it hasn’t happened. It isn’t just the Council that have failed, it is the failure of a number of agencies”.
An eviction is unlikely to take place until early 2021, he admitted. “With the COVID-19 Level 5 restrictions it gives the encampment until at least December 1st, there is an option to extend that by fourteen days and you’re getting into Christmas week by that stage so I’d imagine it will be the New Year before an eviction takes place and it will be hard to face into that for anybody”.