RELATIVE OF 1916 LEADER WAITING 17 YEARS FOR HOUSING
The grandniece of 1916 leader Joseph Mary Plunkett has spoken out about her frustration with having to wait over 17 years for social housing.
Speaking to Gript, mother of three Martina Plunkett Stritch explained how she was placed on a local authority housing waiting list before the birth of her twin daughters, who are 18 this summer. Martina also has a little boy who is three years old, and says the endless wait for a family home has taken a big toll on family life.
She currently lives in a small apartment with her three children; with her two daughters splitting their time between the small apartment and their grandparents’ more spacious home.
She voiced concerns that the people of Ireland are being forgotten about by their own Government, and was speaking as the state makes plans to house thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine despite long housing waiting lists for Irish citizens.
“We don’t have space here to give it to our own, so I can’t understand why we’re handing it out,” she says.
“It’s madness,” she says of the situation.
“It doesn’t make sense to me how they’re opening up all of these houses all of a sudden for refugees, but not for the Irish.
“It frustrates me because my family are celebrated, but at the same time, we’re thrown to the side. That really irritates me – the family are good to hold up in terms of 1916. Your relative died for us, we have a great song; but nothing is done to respect the family. It’s very annoying”.
Martina, who is waiting for a three-bedroom house in Meath, expressed frustration with the handling of her case by Meath County Council, and says it’s almost impossible to get to talk to the Council on the phone.
“The council is unbelievable. They have a policy of not answering the phone. I met a lady last week who was so excited because someone gave her a direct number. Should we not all have a direct number? Is that not what the phone line is for?
“Unless you go up to Navan and go into their offices, you’re not going to be talking to them. It’s just deplorable”.
Martina has contacted her local Sinn Fein representative, who she says has been helpful, and also Darren O’Brien, the Housing Minister – who she says was less helpful.
She says her Sinn Fein representative’s office helped her by finding out where she stood with the council, and told her she would have to appeal in order for her application to move forward. However, she admits she was disappointed with Darragh O’Brien’s response.
“I give up,” she says.
Asked if she has been given an indication regarding the progress of her application or where she places on the queue, Martina told Gript she hasn’t. Her situation is made harder because she is registered disabled, leaving her unable to work and requiring regular hospital visits.
“No, and I’m registered disabled,” she adds.
“I’ve been on disability allowance now for years. I’m unable to work. There’s just so many reasons why I should be housed. I should have been housed a long, long time ago”.
She also says she has raised concerns with the council over the safety standard of her long-term accommodation, something which has not been followed up.
“The apartment we’re in, I mean, my son’s toddler bed is in front of the fire exit. I mean, It’s not even safe in any way, shape or form.”
“I can say all this to the council, and they’ll just look at me, or ask, ‘Have you got a report on that?’ But as I don’t own my apartment, I’m not entitled to reports”.
On the government’s claim that families are prioritised when it comes to accessing local authority housing, Martina says “that’s a lie”.
“We get told that single places come up more often because older people die. What the council says chops and changes,” she says. “They’re not prioritising anybody, not me anyway”.
In reference to the housing crisis and other bread and butter issues facing Irish people, Martina says Ireland is not the same country the 1916 leaders fought for.
“Nothing of what’s going on in Ireland now is what they [the 1916 rebels] fought for. And they would be turning in their graves,” she said.
“I’m glad my own granddad, who was Joseph’s nephew, is not here to see what’s going on in Ireland at the minute. He’d be disgusted”.
Martina also pointed out the irony of the fact she is looking for a house in a county where many housing estates are called after some version of St. Oliver Plunkett — a far out relative of Joseph Mary Plunkett from the same family line as Martina.
“It is ironic. It’s the ridiculousness of it when you think about it,” she says, laughing.
Explaining why she believes she has had to wait on a housing list for so long, the mum of three explained being placed in homeless accommodation in Dublin and then moving to Meath in the hope of securing a family home.
“I was originally in homeless accommodation in Dublin. I was in a B&B, and I was there for the guts of ten years, and that was then considered as a tenancy.
“But then I moved out here [to Meath] for my girls, and for school, and all that, and when I moved, they told me they would pass over the time because I was giving up my spot and because I had been homeless for so long, they told me they would move my time. But when I moved, after I’d moved, I was informed, ‘Oh no. That doesn’t happen’.
“I thought, ‘ok’. That was the way it was. I’ve been in this apartment since I came back to Meath, since I came back to Ashbourne in April 2011”.
‘A HOSTEL IS MOST LIKELY MY FUTURE’
The family’s future has been plunged into more uncertainty since their landlord – a man Martina says has treated them very well – has given them notice that they will have to move out of the apartment they have called home.
The family’s apartment – where they have lived for the last 11 years – will no longer be available to rent from January because of the landlord’s change of circumstances.
Apprehensive about the prospect of leaving, and acutely aware of a housing shortage in the area, she says:
“There’s nowhere to rent around here. A hostel is most likely my future, which is quite scary”.
On the possibility of having to be housed in a hostel, Martina says:
“My family will be smashed to pieces if that happens. My girls just won’t come with me. I know that up front. It’ll be me and my three-year-old”.
On the toll the housing list situation has taken on the mum of three and her family, she says:
“It has depressed me the entire time. It’s a constant battle”.
Describing the far from perfect living situation, she explains: “Like I said, it’s the four of us here. We have two bedrooms, but the girls’ bedroom is so small and my son is in my room. We tend to bed-hop, so my son will sometimes go in and sleep in the twins’ room, and they’ll sleep in here with me so that he gets a night on his own.”
“My emotional damage – and the twins’ emotional damage – is bad. The girls leave and go to my parents to get some space. They are sharing the tiniest bedroom I’ve ever seen; I wouldn’t even call it a single bedroom, it’s more like a half-bedroom. It was really designed for a cot; for a baby to move on after they got out of the cot. It’s not a reasonable size; we just need more space”.
Martina is aware that she and her family are not the only ones facing the knock-on repercussions of Ireland’s housing crisis. In March, property website Daft.ie said that Ireland is seeing an “unprecedented” lack of houses for sale online, with average prices increasingly sharply since last year.
According to the Irish House Price Report for Q1 in 2022, average house prices rose 8.4% nationally since last March, partially due to inflation.
“So many people in Ireland are priced out of houses and stuck in apartments,” she says. “It’s happening to far too many people. It’s abysmal”.
Martina says she wanted to share her story in the hope that people can see “we’re all in it together” and to expose the failings of the Irish Government in the hope that it will prompt action for families facing a similar plight.
“Until we embarrass the Government, they aren’t going to do anything. This is the only way we’re going to embarrass them. I’ve been patient and polite and quiet for twenty years, but now it’s time to speak up”.
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