A winter eviction for Travellers with twin Down syndrome infants

From the Irish Times, Thursday 29th Jan:

LOCAL AUTHORITIES in Waterford last night evicted a couple and their three children, including twins suffering with Down syndrome, from their home at a city halting site.

And from the Independent, same day:

The O’Reillys said yesterday that they fear for the health of their children James (3) and twin girls Charmaine and Nikita (18 months), who both have Down Syndrome and bronchitis.

So here’s where the country has got to. I honestly didn’t think that recession included the receding of the warmth of human kindness. Have to rethink that one. But I’ve been wracking my brains as to how – on absolutely any level – the city of Waterford can actually be served by the actions of its council in the eviction of this young Traveller couple last week.

In this era of bad decisions and poor management, WCC has just made a monumentally memorable cock-up.

james-helen-oreillyJames & Helen O’Reilly with daughters Charmaine and Nikita

You can send your thoughts directly via email to Waterford City Council by clicking here.

Email: info@waterfordcity.ie

Their switchboard can be called at 051-309900.

Write directly to City Hall, The Mall, Waterford.

I suggest you mark your envelope ‘Thundering Clowns Competition.’


Update: Feb 5th

Having sent an email to the Council last night, I received the reply below this a.m. To be commended on their speedy response time, if not their volume of info.

Joe Sullivan <jsullivan AT waterfordcity DOT ie> 5 February 2009 22:36
To: nmcgivney AT gmail DOT com

I refer to your email, and I understand your concerns for the family,
however I presume you have based your email on the elements of the case reported in the media, which do not in any way reflect the full context surrounding this case. The Judge considered the case fully and made his decision. I trust that this info is of assistance.

Joe Sullivan
Waterford City Council

—–Original Message—–
From: nmcgivney AT gmail DOT com
Sent: 04 February 2009 21:37

Subject: Council Business Traveller evictions

I only heard today about the decision to evict the O’Reilly family from their home. Appaling decision, whatever the reasons. This shames Waterford in the eyes of not just right thinking Waterford people, but the entire world. Is this the humanity that the wake of the economic boom has spawned in the Southeast? No alternative to this
fiasco could be found? And fiasco it is, on every conceivable level. I am father to an infant with Down syndrome, I know the hardship and difficulty it can bring. And I do not have to deal with Traveller bias OR twins. I’m judging it purely on these terms, and so should whoever made the appaling decision in the first place. Waterford, a town and county I have respect for and greatly admire, has lost standing.

Written with regret this 4th February 2009.

More to follow as the facts emerge.

14 comments on “A winter eviction for Travellers with twin Down syndrome infants

  1. Jessica says:


    Thanks for posting. I live in the U.S. and am always interested in Down syndrome related articles abroad. Between this and the recent story of banning a family from living in Australia, I don’t know what to think. I will email the above-mentioned city-council to let them know the story of their stupidity has reached the U.S. With all of the bronchial problems our kids have, I am just envisioning the worst for Charmaine and Nikita. Did I read it correctly that they were going to allow the family to camp outdoors near the road where they live?

    Mom to Mira, 10, and Sophia, 8, with DS

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Thanks for commenting and spreading the word, Jessica. It’s been a harsh few weeks here and yes, from what I understand the City Council was ‘allowing’ the family to set up caravan nearby.

  2. Kristy says:

    I am confused. Why was this family kicked out in the first place? Were they not paying their bills? Did the city want the land? I just couldn’t find anything that really explained it? Confused…..

    • Nick McGivney says:

      I’m not sure yet Kristy as to the reasons. I agree, it’s fuzzy. Traditionally, Travellers have lived a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, often at odds with the settled community, and there is a great deal of bias towards their way of life. I’ll do some digging on it but regardless of the reasoning, the outcome is shocking and unwelcome for the children, particularly at this time of year.

  3. Kristy says:

    I totally agree. They should not have kicked them out regardless. I just don’t understand why they did it in the first place. I did see something about feuding on one of those articles. I live in America, so I don’t know the laws there, but I just don’t quite understand how someone can be kicked out that quickly. But it looks as though that is why all of you are scratching your heads too. I will write about it on my blog to get more activity on it and perhaps we can get this family some help.
    Just so sad that anyone would do that to a family!

  4. Martin says:

    Good man for highlighting this Nick, obviously the council need to take a long hard look at themselves after this. On a slightly seperate note, its dissapointing to note The Irish Times quoting that they were “suffering with Down Syndrome”. I wasn’t aware our little dudes were in a state of constant suffering and pain, someone should have told me surely…

    • Nick McGivney says:

      Thanks for commenting, Mr Thompson. We’ll get to the bottom of this somehow, but it’s wrong on so many levels. And agreed on the suffering. Although there IS suffering going on here…

  5. lisadom says:

    yeah, that clunked for me too. Suffering from bad planning and incompetent administration. Suffering from ignorance if health issues associated with Downs too.

    This and the case of Great- the autistic boy deported make me despair of the new Ireland . Used to be a certain ah feck it flexibility and exception to rules and policy here. But dogged implementation of policy seems to be growing, not sure it is who we want to be.

    Ps: nice to meet up yesterday! Promise I will stay for coffee next time….

  6. Conor says:

    Hi Nick,

    A case like this obviously strikes a chord with most of the readers of this blog; however, surely we have an obligation to try to understand why the council took such steps?

    Evictions, particularly of travellers, are never taken lightly. Similarly, the council knew full well the PR disaster that could potentially unfold from such an eviction.

    So the question remains: why were they evicted?

  7. Elbog says:

    For those clueless Yanks like me:
    – now have a vague understanding.
    I hope that it can be resolved in a better way than this.

  8. Nick McGivney says:

    Conor – of course there is another agenda, and the full story is not contained here. There are reports of a local feud involving some of those involved here. It’s not unimportant but my focus is that the needs of the children be met, and I don’t know that they have been.

    Elbog – thanks indeed for the added background. I am neglecting my out of town friends.

  9. NAN P. says:

    Simply Shocking.

    What ever the reasons for the eviction – and it seems to me that both media articles are giving only one side of the story – as you said Nick, the welfare of the children comes first. Reading that one of the twin is awaiting heart surgery, just like Cathal, breaks my heart… And in this foul weather of snow and frost… God!

    I am emailing WCC tonight. Will let you know if I receive an answer.
    In the mean time, thanks for keeping us posted of any development.

  10. NAN P. says:

    Just to let you know Nick, I am still waiting for an acknowledgment to my email to Waterford City Council, let alone a response… You must have caught them on a good day! Or was it your brilliant writing?

    Any update on the family? I have not read / heard anything since… These little girls are on my mind. 😦

  11. Nick McGivney says:

    Nan P – I don’t know what the story is, I haven’t been able to get any updates, been hunting for them, but nothing to be found on the kids. Hopefully their situation has improved. ctr over at dsi had some update, but nothing specific…

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