Two brothers who are living homeless in the Carrick-on-Shannon area for a number of months appeared in court on two occasions in the past two weeks in relation to various public order, trespass and criminal damage charges which led the judge to comment about the plight they now find themselves in.
Bernard McDonagh and his brother Thomas McDonagh, no fixed abode, are charged with trespassing at The Barrelstore apartments, Bridge St, Carrick-on-Shannon on June 27, 2020.
Bernard is further charged with damage to a parking ticket machine at Mercantile Plaza, Carrick-on-Shannon on July 13, 2020, and possession of a claw hammer and crowbar with intention to use in the course of a theft. He is further charged with breaking the front door window of The Nature Trail shop, Hyde St, Mohill on June 17, 2020, as well as public order offences at Townparks, Carrick-on-Shannon on April 8, 2020.
The brothers had been housed by Leitrim County Council in a house in Kiltyclogher but left that accommodation to return to south Leitrim.
Since then, they have lived in a caravan, most recently at the old N4 slip road near the Masonite factory. They say the caravan was impounded by the local authority and they have since been squatting in a derelict building and in a shed in the Carrick-on-Shannon and Mohill areas.
At the sitting of Carrick-on-Shannon District Court on Tuesday, July 28, Thomas McDonagh took the stand and told Judge Kevin Kilrane that they are still homeless and they slept in a shed about a mile from Mohill the previous night.
“Everything is upside down, my life is ruined to be honest with you,” he told the judge.
He said they have been trying to buy a caravan.
Bernard McDonagh said there is a caravan but they don't have anyone with a tow hitch to move it.
He said they have been in with local estate agents looking to see if there is any accommodation available.
Judge Kilrane told Bernard McDonagh, “Despite all your offending and past record I have considerable sympathy for you but it is a consequence of what you have done in the past and what you have failed to do,” he said.
He said the Council had provided them with a house in Kiltyclogher and while it was isolated it was fit for human habitation. He said the brothers decided to leave it as they were bored. They got a caravan and put it on the old N4 road last winter.
He said it had no light and no heat and how they lived in it with temperatures as low as -5º, he did not know.
He agreed with Bernard McDonagh that the caravan was not obstructing anyone and said he had driven to the site to see for himself.
Judge Kilrane said that it was a very small caravan but it sufficed and was a roof over their heads.
“It reminded me of 60 years ago of Travellers living on the side of the road in appalling conditions,” he said.
Judge Kilrane said the local authority decided to move them and took it away.
“It's an appalling situation in this day and age with millions and billions being spent left, right and centre that two people are left homeless. It's a terrible situation reverting back to what was a regular sight in rural Ireland when I was a youngster,” he said.
Judge Kilrane said to Bernard that he has numerous convictions for robbing churches and robbing this, that and the other.
In regard to Thomas, he described him as “a pitiable sight” and was satisfied he had some intoxicant taken to ease the pain.
He said he was going to endeavour to give them every chance to be accommodated. As for them getting private accommodation from an estate agent, Judge Kilrane said he didn't think that was going to happen.
He suggested they approach the services through the offices of Leitrim County Council and also said it may be appropriate for an intervention by the High Court.
“Your present situation is a disaster, no human being could live in those present conditions,” he said and remarked that something had to give, either physically or mentally.
He remanded both men on continuing bail to September 7.
Addressing Bernard, Judge Kilrane said the parking meters in Carrick-on-Shannon are not in use and are taped up since March 1. He said there is not a penny in them and told him he was destroying his own case.
He told Bernard, “Alcohol is also not going to solve this problem, it's only going to drive you into further homelessness.”
Addressing Thomas, he said, “You followed your brother Bernard and he has led you to this situation. You abandoned your house in north Leitrim and the rest is history.”
Judge Kilrane said an intervention by the High Court might “embarrass someone” into doing something about their situation.