Alan Hyde – Direct Provision residents’ stories

Some months ago we covered slumlord James Devine. He intimidated a family out of their home in Lucan, Co. Dublin, making their lives a living hell for two years until they finally left and were forced into homelessness.

A particularly galling detail was that this family had already been through Direct Provision – a system that allows businesses to profit from some of the most vulnerable in society.

Similar to the system of Emergency Accommodation, which sees hoteliers paid to house homeless families in what are usually very unsuitable conditions, Direct Provision sees contractors paid vast sums by the government to house people seeking asylum in Ireland. While in this limbo, they are not allowed to work and must abide by often very restrictive house rules, frequently sharing rooms with other adults who they do not know. This situation can last several years – 40% of asylum seekers spend at least 2 years in Direct Provision.

 

Mount Trenchard near Foynes, Co. Limerick, is known as the worst Direct Provision centre in the country – squalid living conditions are combined with emotional cruelty.

 

The centre is run by contractors Baycaster Limited, owned by Alan Hyde and Tadhg Murphy. More on them later.

The rooms are often crammed with residents having to share 5 to 6 people to a room if not more. Photographs shared on social media display a pretty grim and filthy place.

 

Lovely rooms with 10, 8 or 6 people at a time, you might say “yes people share room in hostels for an overnight or a weekend stay all the time.” But in Mount Trenchard you would usually spend around 5+ years and yes the transfer to another centre is usually denied.

 

 

A few weeks ago, the management at the centre took exception with the residents befriending some stray cats.

the residents here became attached to them, the kittens helped many here to deal with their depression… The contractors told the residents the cats can’t come inside and the residents respected it… the residents still played with the kittens outside.

The management ordered the cats to be destroyed, by planning to have them shot.

 

Mount Trenchard is also widely described as a punishment centre where any rebellious residents are sent to be taught a lesson.

One resident tweetedI have gotten a few messages on here saying “why don’t you get a transfer to a different center?!” Myself I have applied for 4 transfers since January but was denied. There’s a saying in Mount Trenchard, once you’re here it’s near impossible to get out.

 

 

 

As if all this wasn’t grim enough already, Mount Trenchard is basically in the middle of nowhere (around 8km from Foynes, a small village in Limerick). When residents have to travel to Dublin to renew their Temporary Residency Cards, they have to take the one bus to Limerick city to get on a bus that will have them in Dublin by lunchtime.

After waiting to get the card and getting the bus back they won’t arrive back In Limerick city until 5.30 or 6pm after the bus back to Mount Trenchard has already left, leaving them stranded.

A resident tweetedmany here including myself have not been able to renew our cards for more than 8 months now due to not being able to get back…

In 2014, residents in Mount Trenchard protested against their living conditions. The leaders of the protests were forcibly moved from the centre by armed Gardaí and transferred to other centres.

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Senator Padraig Ó Céidigh

“You need to have a certain amount of money to get through life at a reasonable standard but, above that, it won’t make you happy. I know a lot of people who made a lot of money and are very sad people. Money can and does change most people and not necessarily for the better. “

-Padraig Ó Céidigh, The Sunday Times 03/05/15

 

 

Slumlords come in all shapes and sizes, from businessmen to tabloid darlings to freemen. However, Slumleaks are delighted to finally claim our first politician.

 

On the 9th of September 2018 a discussion of the housing crisis on the Marian Finucane show provoked an emotional and passionate intervention from Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh on behalf of the ‘ordinary Joe Soap’.  (Listen from 33.00 minutes on here).

However, rather than railing against high rents, economic evictions or skyrocketing homelessness figures the gallant Senator set out to defend a lesser known victim of the housing crisis… those poor souls renting out their spare gaffs on Airbnb.

Ó Céidigh refused to blame AirBnb for driving homelessness and constricting the housing supply – for him, efforts to regulate are just an example of Big Government oppressing the little guy.

 

I think that’s actually pushing the problem over to the private sector, to the ordinary Joe Soap who’s out there working on a PAYE basis, barely making ends meet and if they do rent out something I’d say fair play to them. That to me… that to me is enterprise quite frankly.

 

Unfortunately, Mr Ó Céidigh’s “Man of the people” credentials are up there with Peter Casey and Sean Gallagher’s. When not defending hotelification, he’s a major player in the tourism business in Galway, having served on the board of Bord Fáilte before going into business in his own right.

He owns Aer Arann, a nursing home in Kinnegad and is listed as a director of at least 20 companies. His portfolio ranges from transport firms to investment firms to Irish language publishing companies.

 

Coincidentally, he also has two properties on AirBnb on the Long Walk and in Salthill. Slumleaks can only wonder why he’s so opposed to the idea of regulating it.

 

 

Slumleaks were first lead there in our investigations on Eugene Burke, who manages the Long Walk property. Far from being simply the working man doing his best to cover expenses, the paper trail for these properties leads right to Leinster House.

He’s declined to declare any of his property interests in the Seanad’s register of interests, despite mentioning it in the newspapers on several occasions.

 

vs

 

He hasn’t been modest about his wealth. He boasted about Aer Arann to The Sunday Times in 2015:

I had no money and grew it from zero to €130m turnover in four years. The growth was phenomenal because I started from nothing

He’s being a touch liberal with the truth here – for all of his complaints about regulation consisting of an attack on the entrepreneurs, his own businesses have relied heavily on subsidies down the years and Aer Arann has been in examinership before. It was also far from a solo triumph – those who worked alongside him have voiced their anger at being whitewashed from his version of history.

 

It can only be assumed from the rest of his CV, and from his one-time net worth of 40 million euro that he is far from “barely making ends meet”, despite his great empathy for those less fortunate than himself.

A thin skin, a feigned “man of the people” persona, mythomania and self-aggrandizement, all wrapped up in the guise of a property tycoon who dabbles in politics…

Could Slumleaks have stumbled on the Gaeilgeoir Donald Trump?

 

Who is Eugene Burke?

As we mentioned in our last post, Eugene Burke is Galway’s biggest Airbnb “host”. Here he is pictured, in what we hope is his Tinder photo.

 

 

However, his business would appear to be a family affair.

 

Eugene mentions in his profile that his family have been letting properties for over 30 years.

His father the late Christopher Burke and mother Attracta Burke (née Hannelly) were directors of a company called C.G Construction Ltd.

Christopher, originally from Athenry, was a builder and died in 1998 in a horse riding accident. Eugene has a brother Leo Burke and a sister Michelle Burke. Uncle Eamon Burke is director of a E.T Construction Ltd with his wife Marie Burke (née O’Malley).

It’s mostly his mother Attracta who’s involved with the business. Here’s a photo of her.

 

 

No comment.

 

Attracta is originally from Northampton and is a qualified nurse.

She is listed as the company secretary for Eugene’s company Nestegg Property Services. In addition to this she owns at least five of the properties Eugene lets out on AirBnb – a convenient little leg-up for her son.

 

From what Slumleaks hears on the dickiebird from Galway, Eugene keeps a relatively low profile of it these days- whereas once he was very publicly the face of AirBnb in Galway and heavily involved with the local Pride parade. To be fair, he’s had a stormy time of it recently.

 

 

Eugene was in a relationship with a Canadian, Bruce Henry. Our snooping on social media give us the notion they’re currently not together. This is an awful shame, because they were partners in business as well as in love.

Bruce is registered director (with Eugene as the other director) for  LOL Entertainment Ltd and Galway Pride Festival Company Ltd.

It’s something to do with the latter that tells us why Eugene’s been keeping quiet recently – running a gay pride parade as if it were Nest Egg could only end in tears.

 

Bruce was chair of Galway Pride in 2016, while Eugene was vice-chair. That year, they were accused of misconduct after they changed the venue for the festival. The only official LGBT bar in Galway was spurned, as well as a controversial €5000 loan from a member of  Eugene’s family (wonder who that was?).

Bruce explained their decision to desert those businesses who had supported the local LGBT community for years so as to maximise profits:

Decisions were made out of need and a duty of care to our sponsors and to the festival. We had secured 14 sponsors who donated €17,000 in cash and services. We had to protect what we had worked so hard to achieve.

 

The rest of Galway Pride held an EGM where they were voted out of their position – this resulted in a split in Galway Pride wherein a seperate group was formed and a court case taken between the committee members and Eugene to resolve the money question. You can read all about it here.

Rival events were set up in the West Side of Galway city where the festival traditionally took place – in what could well have been Ireland’s first “gay shame” event.

The conflict was eventually settled with the dissolution of Burke and Henry’s Galway Pride Festival, but not before a rival Galway Community Pride event was set up.

 

So there you have it – for a brief period, Galway boasted two LGBT Pride festivals. It’s not often Slumleaks stumbles upon a little piece of LGBT history amidst the chaos and madness of the housing crisis, but landlords can be full of surprises.

Eugene ‘serial entrepreneur’ Burke

Average Galway City Rent 2011: €560 for a 1 bed

Average Galway City Rent 2018: €848 for a 1 bed

An increase of 51%

Might there be a link?

 

The housing crisis, sadly, isn’t just a Dublin problem. There isn’t a single county in Ireland where nobody spent Christmas Day in emergency accomodation last year. Galway is no exception –  in the last year, the number of people homeless has soared, with the number of homeless children increasing by 50%.

A less easily-documented aspect of the crisis is students who come to Galway to study but are unable to find a place to live. Many Galway hostels have capitalised on this, specifically advertising beds at extortionate rates to students.

 

We did a search of daft.ie on 08/10/2018 for Galway, and saw listings for 51 residential properties available to let in the Galway city area. But when we searched for ‘entire place’ on Airbnb, we saw anything up to 206 listings which were largely concentrated in Galway city.

 

Despite what some landlords might say to the folks in Take Back The City, moving out of Dublin won’t make life any easier.

 

This is part of a much bigger problem in Ireland, as landlords come to favour short-term lets over the troublesome, more heavily regulated business of actual tenancies. Slumleaks aren’t crazy about AirBnb, and we don’t think our readers are – especially those in Galway city, where AirBnb use grew by 73% last year .

 

However, some landlords are even more avaricious than others- none more than Slumleaks’ latest target, Eugene Burke – just your average young entrepreneur hiding in plain sight behind companies, contractors and even his own family.

 

 

Eugene Burke is listed as an Airbnb host for at least 24 properties as of 08/10/2018 – the busiest host in Galway City.

 

He rents out apartments and houses on behalf of their owner(s) through his company Nest Egg Property Services Ltd.

 

Nestegg Property Services describes itself on its website as

an Airbnb management and consultancy service that removes the hassle of renting out your property on the Airbnb platform.

 

And they also kindly clarify that

Working with NestEgg can provide you with a greater return on your property investment than through traditional property investment.”

But every pyramid scheme says that. How does Mr Burke manage to maximise profit whilst wrecking the rental market for students, locals whose rent has risen by 13.6% in the last year?

Burke makes his money in two ways: by charging the owner of the property a 15% service fee, or by renting the property himself from the owner and letting it out short-term to others for a substantially higher fee.

 

In true entrepreneurial – middle man – style he uses contractors to clean the places, judging from a  Facebook review for the company Zelwork.The prices listed on Eugene’s Airbnb profile range from €60-€290 a night depending on the size and location of the property. With 1556 reviews left on his page there must be a substantial turnover.

Many of the properties he rents out are listed as being owned by his family members including one on Grattan Terrace which is owned by his mother. This previously operated as a B & B and is now rented out as an ‘artistic’ Airbnb for up to 10 people. From what Slumleaks can gather this means it’s been redecorated recently and has a better coffee maker.

 

 

 

He also operates at least one property in the Drom Ard Apartment block, also belonging to his mother Attracta Burke.

 

 

This apartment block was once a residential complex of locals, students and families who lived and worked in the city. It now appears to be almost entirely short-term lets.

 

 

Any Slumleaks reader worth their salt will know AirBnb has never been about people letting out their spare room. Galway’s housing market has been destroyed by landlords buying out entire blocks of apartments, much as Dublin’s city center has been turned into an open-air hotel where tourists sleep in apartments while families sleep in hotels.

One former tenant who rented one of the other apartments in the block told us they were forced to move out due to the inadequate heating and out of control mould which neither the owner nor the property management company saw fit to address.

 

we had to constantly use the dehumidifier… I had to have a hot water bottle, electric blanket and a hoodie on to sleep during the winter… I arrived back after Christmas, after maybe 10-14 days away, there was mould growing covering the floor walls and roof as well as wardrobe.”

 

This same flat is currently advertised on multiple short letting sites by another ‘host’ (strangely enough, also with the first name Eugene – but that, dear reader, is a story for another day). It’s looking a lot less mouldy these days.

Another property on Eugene’s page – 21 The Long Walk – appears to be owned by Pádraig Ó Céidigh – a Senator, businessman, wannabe Presidental candidate and another self described ‘entrepreneur’ who made an impassioned defence of Airbnb on the Marian Finucane show on the 9/9/2018.

 

Admittedly, turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

 

Join us soon, when Slumleaks gets to the humans behind the story of skyrocketing rents, vacant properties and bullied tenants beyond the Pale.

Pat O’Donnell and RFC Security

 

Following a mass eviction of approximately 120 tenants from Summerhill Parade in May of this year, various housing activists occupied one of the vacated houses, number 35 Summerhill Parade.

 

The house was held for 10 days. Initially, Pat O’Donnell & Co denied any connection to the houses, however they were forced to reveal themselves when they served a Court Summons on the occupants of the house.

 

This house is owned by Pat O’Donnell & Co Ltd Retirement and Death Benefit Plan, which is connected to Pat O’Donnell & Co – who we met back in May.

 

On 16th of August the O’Donnell family took an injunction against the occupants. This would allow the occupants to be removed by force from the property if necessary.

 

Slumleaks have reason to believe that RFC Security have been hired by the O’Donnells to forcibly remove the occupants from 35 Summerhill Parade.

 

RFC have been monitoring the buildings on Summerhill Parade and it is expected that they will move in on the occupants early tomorrow morning.

 

 

RFC Security’s Managing Director is one Richie Flood. According to a close source, he was arrested in possession of large amount of cocaine while driving an RFC company van several years ago. Richie was held for questioning before being released.

 

 

In addition to Mr Flood’s shady, potentially criminal background it is common knowledge that RFC is a highly exploitative employer. The use of bogus contracts is a common complaint made about RFC’s business practices.

One instance of this is security staff being employed as cleaners, on a significantly lower rate of pay than normal security staff. Besides being an example of odious exploitation, this constitutes a breach of PSA standards, rules and regulations.

 

Some of the sites in Dublin RFC operates on:

 

The Mercantile Pub

 

Stag’s Head

 

Oliver StJohnGogarty’s

 

Trinity Bar

 

Club M

 

Turks Head

 

Whelans

 

The Temple Bar

 

The Village Camden St

 

Flannery’s

 

Fitzsimons

 

Hickey’s Pharmacies Dublin City Centre

 

Fatface Henry St

 

McDonalds Grafton St

 

Liverpool FC shop ILAC centre

 

Regatta ILAC

 

Centra Temple Bar

 

Centra Dame St

 

Spar Dame St

 

The Button Factory

 

Westland Sq. Car Park

Who is James Devine?

Last month we heard about James Devine, a landlord who terrorised a family out of their home in Lucan – despite the fact that they always paid their rent on time. He launched a campaign of harassment and intimidation when they asked him to carry out basic repairs on the house.

 

The Dublin Inquirer have also covered this case, revealing that Devine did something similar to a previous tenant in 2016-17.

 

So who exactly is the delightful James Devine, and why does he bully perfectly decent, well-behaved tenants out of their home in such a blatant manner? Why doesn’t he just do what many landlords are doing these days, and say they need to leave due to renovations? By all accounts, the house needed some work.

 

Slumleaks has done some digging on James Devine, and what we found was that this aggressive, bullying behaviour seems to be the norm for him.

 

Originally from a farming background in Treenlaur near Swinford, Co. Mayo, his main line of work for some years has been in plant hire – most recently he registered J Devine Civils Ltd in April 2018, at his address in Knappagh, near Westport, Co Mayo.

However, he has a string of convictions, mostly traffic-related. These convictions are documented in various newspaper reports over the years, and demonstrate that the man has what can be politely described as a short temper.

 

His first traffic-related offence was in 1992, when he was just 18. He was fined £200 for making false declarations to a car insurance broker, as was his father, Michael J Devine.

 

In 1993, he was charged with vandalising his neighbour’s hay bales while drunk. He was 20 at the time.

 

In July 2003, he was fined for dangerous driving in Dublin. He had been stopped by a Garda after doing an illegal U-turn on a busy road. He told the Garda he wouldn’t go to court, drove his 4×4 towards him, nearly hitting him. Afterwards he told the Garda “you’ve made a very big mistake today”. Devine pleaded guilty to dangerous driving.

 

In July 2005, James Devine was fined €2000 and given a 6-month suspended sentence for road offences & road rage. This time, he overtook another motorist on the M50, and then obstructed a Garda.

 

In May 2008 James Devine was fined €1500 & disqualified from driving for 2 yrs in a Longford court. He was charged with speeding and crossing a white line, causing danger to other drivers. The judge described him as “a maniac on the roads” and noted that he had a number of previous convictions.

 

 

It appears that the unfortunate Lukadi family are just the most recent victims of James Devine’s temper.

 

So he mightn’t be a great driver or neighbour, but what of his other hobbies?

In 2006, he took out shares in a Maltese-registered company, Canada Square (Malta) Ltd. He was one of many – there were 81 shareholders in total, all Irish, most small or medium-sized business people involved in either construction or real estate, with a few retailers and farm-related businesses thrown in for good measure.

It’s unclear why so many Irish business people invested in a Maltese-registered company, but this wasn’t that strange during the Celtic Tiger – just think about how many people bought property in Bulgaria.

Canada Square (Malta) Ltd was liquidated in February 2012 – it’s unclear if all the shareholders got a good return on their investment.

 

However, in 2009, James Devine was brought to court by Caterpillar Financial Services (Ireland) Public Limited Company, regarding unpaid loans that he took out in 2006 to buy the house on Foxborough Road.

The three years between 2006 and 2009 were a long three years in the Irish property market – it’s reasonably safe to assume that, while Devine has managed to keep possession of the house on Foxborough Road, he maybe didn’t get the best return on his Maltese investment.

Somehow, we can’t really feel sorry for him though.

James Devine – Tenant Story

“Life has been a nightmare to be honest. We have been coming from Direct Provision, and we have other friends who are renting from very good landlords. We know that it’s not like all the Irish people are like this, we know that there are good landlords out there. We are renting from someone who has no heart. “

These are the words of Iness Lukadi, who has been resident at a house on Foxborough Road in Lucan with her husband and their four children for the last year. Before this, they were in Direct Provision for 5 years – moving to Lucan can only have felt like a blessed escape after so long in restricted accomodation without freedom to work or cook for themselves, and the meager personal allowance of €21.60 each per week which is provided to asylum seekers upon arrival.

 

The family obtained residency in 2015, but nevertheless spent another two difficult years searching for a home to move into. They had exhausted their period of clemency, and had little option but to accept this house, having spent 2 years saving for a deposit of €2000. They accepted it, despite the lack of a local school place for their children and Iness’ own studies in IT Tallaght making it highly inconvenient.

Even then, they remained dependent on HAP to be able to rent at all. The house was in poor condition, but money was made available for repairs. Little did Iness know that this was just the beginning.

The landlord asked HAP to pay 2 months repair deposit and 1 months rent in advance. So he got €7800 from HAP and €2000 from us. So just for us moving in he got €9800….When we called to meet him, we found people doing jobs…He told us that the way it is with HAP we give our own deposit, and once he processes the payment he gives it back. So when we came here he said we should give him €2000 euro deposit, and when HAP pays him he’s going to refund that money. When HAP paid him the €7800, he didn’t give back that €2000. That means he got €9800 for nothing.

Had they left the next day, the landlord could have kept every penny.

Unfortunately, the house was badly in need of more maintenance than even €7800 could have paid for.

 

 

When we had a bath, the water was leaking. We spotted that on the very first day, but he told us that those guys who were fixing the house were gonna take care of it. But when we moved in, nothing was done.… we have to keep the window open because of the damp. The whole ceiling is covered in damp – if you close it you can feel the humidity. We have kids so we have to keep the window open.”

 

 

“We didn’t have any cooking facilities. The cooker hasn’t been working. It’s a gas cooker, he asked my husband to fix it – my husband told him he didn’t have any experience to fix gas cookers, then he says that we should look for someone to fix it, that it’s not his problem and that we should just fix it. We don’t have a cooking facility – we don’t have a microwave, we don’t have a washing machine, we don’t have a fridge and we don’t have a dishwasher… so we don’t have any basics in the kitchen.”

 

 

“There is no light (in the children’s bedroom). That meant the girls were sleeping in a room with no light for the first 8 months – you can see the wire that connects the light was completely cut off. we had to use a torch or a phone to put them to bed. It’s just 2/3 months ago that he sent someone around to connect a light.”

 

The landlord regarded even the most innocuous requests with disdain, and reneged on his promises to spend the HAP grant on helping Iness and her husband provide a home for their children immediately.

 

“There was a time I asked him for a microwave, and he was so insulting to me. There’s a message on the phone where he says “What else do you want, a back massager? You are asking me for a microwave? – what next a back massager?” Just for me to ask for a microwave…and what is a microwave compared to the money he’s getting every month?”

 

Worse was to come, as he soon began seeking a further €400 per month in rent. This was despite the total lack of any effort on his part to improve the house.

 

“We pay €2350 every month, Hap is already paying him €1950 every month – he wants another €400 on top but we don’t have any basics in the kitchen. I can’t prepare a meal for my children.

Our heating? The boiler doesn’t work. If you put in credit on the machine, it will be running but the boiler will take maybe 3-4 days before it starts working so it’s costing me as well. I might spend €30 topping up, but it’s only maybe 5 euro that I use. We don’t have a fireplace – so you imagine with that snow. I had to buy blankets to wrap my kids up in. There’s no heating and there’s no fireplace.

My kids have really suffered and there is nothing that we can do about it. They said we should deal with it, we should take the house the way it is, it’s a nightmare.”

 

Unfortunately, much worse than indifference and greed was to come.

Devine wanted to embellish his relationship with the family on paper, purely for his own benefit.

“He asked us to tell HAP we had taken up this house from the 1st of April. We didn’t take the house on the 1st of April, so we told HAP we had taken the house on the 13th of April because that was when we gave him the deposit and took the keys to the house. On the form, there’s the landlord’s section that he has to fill in, he filled in the 1st April. When I went to HAP I said I took it on the 13th. So they started paying him on the 13th.

 

Again, Devine told the family to lie on the HAP forms;

He said “That’s not what we agreed.” He told us to tell HAP to say we took it on the 1st. We couldn’t do that, we couldn’t lie. That upset him. So because HAP is paying him according to the date that we moved in, it took some time for them to backdate all his payments. So he kept on sending us back to HAP. HAP kept telling us that “we don’t deal with tenants when it came to landlord’s money, so tell your landlord to ring us.” But every time we did that , he said “It’s your responsibility, you have to go to HAP and make sure my rent is being paid”.

It was so much it was difficult. It was our first time renting as well, so we didn’t know. For him, he knew the game he was playing.”

 

At no point did the family meekly accept their fate. Their financial and emotional investment in this property was too much for that to be possible. They arranged for an inspector who could prove the extent to which they were being neglected.

“The problems escalated when the inspectors came to inspect the property. They called him and sent him an improvement notice. He was so upset that we had let the inspectors come and inspect his property – he didn’t want anyone calling him about his property. So that was the beginning of problems. That’s when we started getting text messages, we started getting calls.”

 

Iness tried to stand up for herself and her children by seeking legal protection from the RTB after several weeks of abuse and neglect. This only enraged her landlord further. His greed turned into spite.

“We took him to RTB (over the abusive messages). The RTB made a decision saying he should pay for the damages, which he appealed.

He refused to pay for the damages, for the messages he has been sending. He hasn’t given us a peaceful occupation. He was asked to pay us 2800 euro but that’s not our point.

We didn’t take him to RTB because we wanted the money. We wanted a peaceful life. He can’t come anytime – he came at midnight. He sent people, maybe even 5 people in a day to look at the house – they said they were going to do some work. But he wouldn’t ring me to say he was sending these people.

I have kids in the house, I can’t let people in and out. But if I refuse, I’ll be insulted the whole day. He’s made my life very difficult.”

 

While the RTB case was still pending, intimidation gradually escalated to violence, as the family refused to give in to his efforts to destroy what they’d worked so hard to build.

 

“He began by stabbing my car tyres. All the tyres were stabbed. He sent his boys to do it. He’d say “Are you moving out?” and we’d say “ No we’re not moving out, we’re waiting for RTB and RTB is still pending. We’re still waiting for RTB decision to come out.” He’d tell us he was going to send some boys out, and it wasn’t a joke. Within 2-3 weeks there’d be some boys who would smash the windows. Once we’d fixed those windows, he’s coming to throw the eggs on those windows. Once you forget after a week or so, because we had to fix the car. I need the car, I need to drive my kids to school. Once you fix the car, he’s coming to break them again. And in this area, there’s no place you can safely park because every house has its own parking. I was forced to go and park somewhere outside my house where they couldn’t find my car.”

 

 

Ironically, in many respects the family have been model tenants. They have spent much of their own money on improvements, and HAP has ensured they are never in arrears despite their difficult circumstances. This matters little to the landlord, and his behaviour and attitude towards the RTB means that it’s hard to believe he’ll follow their ruling.

“He has no reason to terminate us because our rent is up to date. There was a time we went to tribunal and he got up and walked away in the middle of the tribunal hearing. He told the judge “tell these people to get out of my house. I don’t have time for this nonsense.”

 

His campaign of bullying and intimidation came to a head over the recent May Bank Holiday weekend.

The weekend began with Iness’ car being smashed up by four young men with baseball bats on Friday evening.

“There were four guys in the car. They parked at the corner, came out with the baseball bats… my husband wasn’t around. It was just me and my four kids in the house. We hear “bouf bouf bouf” outside and I was busy calling neighbours, because once they see neighbours they run.”

 

 

“I ran outside with my phone ringing the guards. They skidded around the back of the house and climbed another wall behind my house. They jumped inside my back garden and smashed all the windows in the back garden and went. They knew at that time we were busy calling the guards, so we couldn’t track them down.”

“He called us on Saturday on a private number. I answered the phone – I heard him and dropped the phone.  I rang my husband to find out if he was calling him, and my husband said “No, why is he calling you?” My husband was in the UK at that time escorting my son’s football team, so he called him to ask “why are you calling my wife, what is it that you want?”. He said “Why are you not moving out?

I was left in the house with my three girls. It was really scary – me and my three kids were traumatised. It’s like every time it happens, you go back to your children and tell them it’s OK, that they won’t be back again. After a week, it happens again and you have to tell your kids it won’t happen again.

….For me as a parent, it’s so hard lying to my kids. Every time they just come back and do the same thing.”

 

The personal and professional toll this treatment has taken on Iness’ life and her family has made it almost impossible for them to start a new life here. Iness’ efforts to improve her job prospects through education have been severely compromised.

“That’s cost my studies as well. For me, I have exams Thursday, Friday, Saturday. I’ve spent 3 days in emergency accomodation with no internet. All my notes are online- that means I can’t study or prepare myself for that exam. I’m busy working out where I’m going to sleep tomorrow instead of concentrating on my studies. I have only 1 day to go into my pre-exams.

This school I’m paying for myself, I’m not on a SUSI grant.

But this happened at the same time last year – I went to do one exam and I failed because it was the time he was sending me all the messages. The subject was Business Maths – I couldn’t do it. I went to the exam blank because I couldn’t concentrate – I couldn’t do it.

If you fail you have to pay 185 euro extra for every subject so it’s still costing me. I have to fix my cars, I have to find a way of cooking for myself, I have to find a way of washing for my kids, I have to find a way of paying for my exams that I failed.”

 

However, the effect it has had on her children has almost been harder to bear.

 

Today they were not in school. They went into emergency accomodation with just a few clothes. We had to come back, we had to prepare their uniforms… with no iron. I couldn’t come back to prepare their uniforms, so they didn’t go to school. It’s still affecting them.

It’s not easy for them to move, they have friends here. My son has a football club here in Lucan. If I have to take them into emergency accomodation in Tallaght, everything stops. They have to make new friends again, a new life from scratch.

 

The family remain in emergency accomodation in Tallaght for now. All of this stress and heartbreak has been caused for the sake of a mere 400 a month extra in rent.

 

For Iness, however, it is at heart a problem far more serious than anything money alone can solve.

“I just want a place to call home, that’s all I want. This emergency accommodation is not a life, it’s like I’m back in Direct Provision. Nothing has changed – I’m back to square one. I don’t know when that house will happen. It’s like waiting for your residence- you don’t know when it will happen. I’m just hoping for my kids that it will happen. I just want my kids to enjoy their freedom.”