Traveller family ordered to leave Ballyshannon site

A judge has ordered a Travelling family to leave the Old Mart site in Ballyshannon following court action by Donegal County Council.

A judge has ordered a Travelling family to leave the Old Mart site in Ballyshannon following court action by Donegal County Council.

The presence of the family at the site on Station Road has been the source of on going tensions between Travellers and local people.

Donegal County Council took the action against Jimmy and Anne Ward.

Judge John O’Hagan made the order despite arguments on behalf of the family that they have nowhere else to go.

Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that two young children from the family have serious health problems and are regularly attending Sligo General Hospital as well as appointments in Donegal Town and Ballybofey.

Donegal County Council says at least €500,000 had been spent on the family up to 2009 alone and numerous attempts to accommodate them have failed.

In recent years the family have moved between a serviced site at Finner, a site at Carrickboy in Ballyshannon and three sperate houses - two in the North and one in Raphoe. Patrick McLaughlin of Donegal County Council told the court Mrs. Ward had refused support from the council while she was living in Raphoe including a day worker to come and help get the children ready for school.

The family had left the site in Ballyshsannon earlier this year but when they returned there was a stand off with locals that lasted for a couple of days. Mr. McLaughlin said the family had wanted to return to a site at Carrickboy but gardaí said they did not want the family returning there.

Mr. McLaughlin said gardai are at the Old Mart site almost every day and continued to say the family have been run off a site at Finner by unknown persons after a “litany of antisocial behaviour”.

He also said it was not possible to house the family in the south of the county.

Mr. McLaughlin said the council felt it had taken the private accommodation option as far as it could.

He said €4,000 worth of damage had been caused to the house in Raphoe and there had been alleged intimidation of the owner. He said there is only one other Traveller family that the council has not been able to house and there are plans for them.

Counsel for the Wards, Peter Nolan (BL), said if the family had to move to a transient site in Inishowen they would be 60 miles from Sligo General hospital and they need to stay in the south of the county to attend medical apointments.

Paula Leonard of the Donegal Travellers Project said Mrs. Ward does not drive and all the appointments that her two ill children attend can be reached using the public bus routes.

When it was put to her by Judge John O’Hagan that the family seemed to have difficulty integrating she said the council’s Traveller Accommodation Programme had not dealt with more traditional and Nomadic families like the Wards. She said Mrs. Ward would accept accommodation in South Donegal and said one solution would be the reopening of a temporary site in the south of the county, adding that Mrs. Ward’s five-year-old daughter has been enrolled in a school in Ballyshannon.

Judge John O’Hagan said the motion before the court was to remove the family from a piece of land where they are in “a dangerous predicament”.

He had to make the order to remove the family. Addressing the Wards he said, “I can’t but pass comment on the fact that Donegal County Council has taken numerous actions to try and accommodate you and for whatever reason it has not worked.

“You are in an unauthorised area and I have no option but to tell you that you have to go and any other persons in caravans there have to go.”

The judge has suspended the order for two months after which time Donegal County Council will be able to remove the caravans and other property from the site.