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Saturday 3 December 2016

'I fear we could die like Carrickmines cousins' - mum-of-six Margaret

Margaret and Patrick McCarthy with three of their children – Paddy (7), Mariline (8) and Bill (2) – in their Shankill home
Margaret and Patrick McCarthy with three of their children – Paddy (7), Mariline (8) and Bill (2) – in their Shankill home

A mum-of-six living in one room with her husband and children has told of her safety fears, a year after her relatives were killed in one of Ireland's worst fire tragedies.

Margaret McCarthy (39) is a cousin of the two Traveller f amilies who died in the Carrickmines fire in October last year.

Eleven people died in the blaze at the halting site, including an unborn baby.

The deaths raised serious questions over how Traveller families were forced to live in cramped and unsafe conditions.

Mattresses

Margaret, who is mother to Michael (13), Thomas (12), James (9), Mariline (8), Paddy (7) and two-year-old Bill, is terrified her family could meet a similar fate unless they find a suitable home.

Their one-room residence in Shankill comprises a kitchen and separate small bathroom which has no shower, but there are no bedrooms and no living room.

Instead, Margaret and Patrick and their children have to sleep on eight mattresses on the tiled floor, some close to the cooker.

"When I think of our cousins who died just over a year ago because they weren't living in suitable conditions, I look at us and am afraid we could die too," said Margaret.

"If my cousins could see how we're living, after how they died, they would be so upset.

"It feels like because we're Travellers the council just sticks us anywhere, just to get us out of the way, but this isn't right, the way we are living. It's especially not right on my children."

Margaret had lived in a caravan, but when she had children she decided to settle.

"I wanted my children to have friends. Right now, because we're cramped in and hidden away here, they don't have friends outside of the Travelling community.

"We just want the same rights as everyone else and to live like everyone else."

Margaret recalled the last time she saw her pregnant cousin Tara Gilbert (27), who died in the Carrickmines fire along with her other two children, Jodie and Kelsey, and partner Willy.

"Tara was a lovely girl and she was so looking forward to having her baby. Both of the families were lovely," she said.

"But she wasn't happy, none of them were, with their living conditions. I saw how they lived and I felt so sorry for them. They were in very poor conditions and it got them down.

Dreading

"No one helped them. Instead, the family members left behind had to bury them. It's just awful. This shouldn't be allowed to happen. We're human beings.

"We have no central heating, so I'm dreading the cold winter coming in again - I just can't take any more."

Margaret said she has been on the Dun Laoghaire social housing list for 14 years and often calls the council but is never offered a more suitable place to live. A Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council spokesman said it does not comment on individual cases.

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