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*Baby John Kevin Hutchinson. 

AN ENNIS mother has shared her fears of the potential impacts of having to bring her sick five month old baby back to live in a “seriously overcrowded caravan”.

Laura Molloy Hutchinson lives in the halting site on the Quin Rd in Ennis with her husband, Paddy, their seven children plus her sister Tara and her daughter. She has lived there since 2000 and referenced the “tragedies” which saw two of her brothers die as a reason for wanting to get away from the location.

For the past week, Laura has been staying at University Hospital Limerick with her youngest child, five month old John Kevin who has picked up Bronchiolitis and on Wednesday morning was transferred to Dublin to undergo further tests with concern expressed about his voice-box and heart.

Of the current living conditions, Laura explained, “we’re living in a mobile home with three bedrooms that wouldn’t make the size of a living room in a house. I’ve my five month old who is currently in the hospital, my year and a half old son in bed with me and the husband, I’ve my twin girls in their own room, I’ve a twelve year old, ten year old and three year old in another room. I also have my eighteen year old sister who is homeless as well, she is in with me because I couldn’t leave her on the streets with her one year old baby, she is on the couch, we’re very overcrowded, We’ve three adults and eight kids in the one caravan, we’re all using the one bathroom and tiny shower”.

*Paddy Hutchinson with his children Michael, Martina, Rosalina, Nathan Myles, and Paddy, along with his Sister-in-Law Tara Molloy and her daugther Amelia Rose. Photograph: Natasha Barton.

Subsequently, she is fearful of any further deterioration to John Kevin’s condition when he returns to their home. “If the rest of the kids get a cold I’m afraid, there is nowhere that I can isolate him properly, when he gets sick he really does”. His first stint in hospital saw him moved to Temple Street’s ICU where he spent “four days fighting for his life” after getting Bronchiolitis, double pneumonia and a collapsed right lung.

She flagged that if he needs to be hooked up to any machines, there is no space to accommodate them. “He came in with Bronchiolitis and they’re saying he could have lifelong heart problems and a situation with his voice-box. A caravan is not suitable to bring back a five month old baby with these conditions, it is bad enough that he is trying to fight off Bronchiolitis at home besides having all these conditions with no proper facilities or no proper heating, our heating is gas, we’re spending €150 in seven to ten days on a large bottle of gas, in this weather I’d be lucky to get that amount of days with it”.

John Kevin’s health concerns coupled with their stress in trying to find accommodation and the recent bereavement of Laura’s brother in the lead up to Christmas represents a difficult period for the family. “I’m not sure if I will be home to the rest of the kids for Christmas, our family already has two missing for Christmas, if my son is in hospital I will have to stay with him, the kids are upset that I’m there and that is making me upset and stressed, it is all building up and it is like a lorry sitting on top of my shoulders”.

Laura Molloy Hutchinson.

“I’m not looking for a mansion on the hill,” Laura told The Clare Echo. Now aged thirty, she has been on the Council’s housing list since turning eighteen, around this time she was allocated a bay on the halting site. She has said the Council have yet to offer her a house during this time, “all I’ve ever received off Clare County Council is two caravans, one which I was living in for seven years where they had to wait for the floor to go completely when my two feet could actually go onto the ground, then they gave this other caravan which is in better shape but it is still damp and cold, it is unfit for my sick child to be coming home to”.

Responding to queries from The Clare Echo, a spokesperson for Clare County Council outlined, “If someone is a tenant of a halting site they may be deemed to have their housing need met currently. Equally a tenant of a halting site may be approved for a transfer to standard social housing and if so then the household are open to bid on properties advertised on CBL. The Traveller Liaison Officer is available to assist in the completion of housing application forms, support at housing assessment meetings and in the setting up and use of the CBL system. The priority for allocation is as set out in the Social Housing Allocation scheme. It should be noted there are 17 vacant Traveller specific units of accommodation vacant which are only available for allocation to members of the Traveller community”.

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