Tenant accused of holding Galway City Council to ransom

A Ballybane man who refused to pay his rent until issues such as maintenance repairs, rubbish, and the steel barriers of a neglected community centre were addressed was accused this week of “holding the City Council to ransom”.

However, after William Canavan pleaded his case to Judge Mary Fahy at Galway District Court last Tuesday she agreed that the community centre, next door to his property at 36 Fana Glas, Ballybane, was “unsightly” and that Galway City Council should do something about it.

Ann Kerrigan of the City Council Housing Department gave evidence that notice to quit was served on Mr Canavan on October 2, 2008, and the council made an order for vacant possession of the house on November 6, 2008. She said that to date Mr Canavan owed the Council €2,719.80 in rent arrears and that he cited outstanding maintenance repairs as reasons for non-payment.

“It’s not just a few minor repairs,” Mr Canavan explained, adding that it “goes a lot deeper”. He told the court, under oath, that the community centre is in “awful disrepair” and youths were kicking a ball constantly against the steel barriers causing it to “reverberate all the time”. Flooding, the parking of caravans and rubbish were also problems.

“I have every penny of the rent due but I needed to have my day in court. I had two meetings with the council but I couldn’t get my point across,” he said.

“Your rent is €28.30, you’re not going to get Trump Towers,” said Judge Fahy.

Solicitor for Galway City Council, Robert Meehan, then put it to Mr Canavan that he was “holding the Council to ransom until whatever concerns” he had were met.

Mr Canavan assured the judge that he was not objecting to the property being used as a Traveller community centre but only had a problem with the use of the steel doors and the “appalling” conditions of the premises. He said that he wasn’t being treated as equally as other tenants as “they don’t have a derelict house beside them”. Mr Canavan then presented a cheque for €2,720 to Judge Fahy to prove that he did have his rent.

Council official Eleanor O’Neill told the court that she had a meeting with Mr Canavan to discuss the issues and had viewed photographs of the area. She said that the community centre building, like many council buildings in city, had been subject to vandalism and that the steel barriers were necessary for security. She explained that the property was a Traveller community centre which runs classes and after school programmes for youngsters but that “it’s not used as much as we would like”. Ms O’Neill then agreed with Judge Fahy that the property was “unsightly” and that no one would want to live next to it.

“Maybe another deterrent should be used? If the group is not using it then the council should get it back and give it to other groups that will look after it,” said Judge Fahy.

Ms O’Neill replied that the use of the property is being reviewed as well as the issues in the area; Galway City Council officials are due to meet with the Residents’ Association in February.

Judge Fahy ordered Mr Canavan to hand over the cheque to pay the rent arrears and adjourned the matter to March 3, 2009, and advised the council to do all they could to address the problems.

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