The anticipated funding to refurbish St Catherine’s Halting Site (Wetlands) on the outskirts of Kilkenny city has been turned down by the Department of the Environment leaving residents in a state of despair, forcing them to continue living in Third World conditions.
Resident, Hannah Carty is very upset and said there are nine families at Wetlands looking for houses. “A lot of them are living in caravans that are very damp and have no facilities. There are no communal showers or toilets. We heard that the houses were to go to tender and thought that they would be built. John McCormack came down and said that he had a bit of bad news and that they was no money for the houses. I have three boys in one bed and three girls in another bed. I rent a chalet but most of the rooms are too damp to use. I know a woman out here with three children and no toilet, no shower and no washing facilities,” she said.
Cllr Andrew McGuinness said that he was shocked and disgusted that the application was refused.
“These families will now have no choice but to live in horrific sub standard conditions. Third World living conditions is an understatement in describing St Catherine’s halting site.
His comments come following the decision of the department to turn down the council’s application for €2 million to redevelop the site, providing housing units, upgrading all of the essential services and re-aligning the road which is consider very dangerous.
At a special housing meeting of Kilkenny County Council on Monday the housing executive also expressed disappointment following extensive work on their behalf and consultation with the residents of the halting site. They were supported by Cllr McGuinness.
“We were lead to believe that the funding was forthcoming and residents and Council staff were preparing themselves for the works to begin.
“I’m appalled that the Minister has allowed this to happen in his own constituency and I cannot understand why he didn’t intervene and inform us that the funding was not available before Kilkenny County Council carried out any consultation process. Now these residents feel let down yet again and it could take years to rebuild that trust,” Cllr McGuinness said..
“I visited the site over the weekend and I saw the awful conditions that families are living in. Some families have no running water, no shower facilities and no toilet facilities. There is little or no water drainage on the site, some units are running extension cables from others to get electricity and there doesn’t seem to be any space for refuse collection leaving a putrid stench of rotting rubbish throughout the site,” he said.
“The road itself is extremely dangerous and with 11 families living on site there are a lot of very young children with no recreational facilities and who are at risk of being knocked down by those using the road. It is also a high risk for local residents who use the road,” he said.
“I accept that money is scarce but there are humanitarian and health and safety issues here. Living in squalor without basic essentials like the ability to have a shower or an indoor bathroom or even keeping your children safe and warm, are denied to these people. In recent years two children have died on the site and one man committed suicide.
“I don’t care where you’re from or what your background is, people should at the very least be entitled to live in a habitable environment and as public representatives it is our duty to ensure that happens, for everybody. It seems to me that the Department is ignoring that duty,” said Cllr McGuinness.
He called on Minister Hogan to review the application for the redevelopment of St Catherine’s and agree to a phased in project that would see the funding spread out over a number of years so that work can begin.