A judge lambasted the local council this week (September 4 ) for pursuing an eviction against a mother of four over arrears in the present economic climate when “€90 billion of taxpayers money is being used to bail out those who fly in helicopters and bathe in sunlight”.
Judge John Neilan was hearing an application from Athlone Town Council to evict Ms Olivia O’Neill (31 ), of Battery Heights, Athlone for €5,600 in rent arrears at a civil sitting of the District Court.
However, he became incredulous when Mr Padraig Quinn, solicitor for the unemployed woman, presented documentary evidence that Ms O’Neill had agreed a repayment plan of €100 per month since April and had made “six out of nine” €60 a week payments since her last court appearance in July.
It transpired the council chose to ignore these payments because her arrangement had not been made with the correct council official at the Housing Department.
“If the tenant met with a council officer and made an offer to repay and then made payment, then this court will not make an order [to evict],” said Judge Neilan.
“I find it unacceptable that [a named council official] is taking this position."
The council official said it was because they were "substantial arrears".
"The whole country is in substantial arrears," lashed the judge.
“Because of the economic circumstances in the country at the minute, her payments may not be to the last cent but I feel the town council should act more sympathetically towards its tenants...
“To me it seems extremely insensitive of the council to do this with no regard to the difficulties in the country at the moment.”
He then went on to criticise the authority and its counsel - local firm Fair and Murtagh - for a third time for going ahead with this eviction under Section 62 of the Housing Act, knowing the amount of judicial reviews submitted to the High Court across the country on this issue.
Section 62 evictions have been deemed incompatible by the High Court with the EU Declaration on Human Rights which finds it is contrary to the rights of an EU citizen for a statutory authority to arbitrarily deprive said citizen of housing.
This is being appealed to the Supreme Court at the moment in the State -v- Gallagher and a number of S62 orders around the country are awaiting this decision.
“Why waste more taxpayers money when there is so much litigation outstanding?” asked the judge, estimating each new review costs around €20,000.
“Westmeath County Council and you [the acting solicitor] know very well about these and why you chose to do this is beyond my comprehension.
“It’s time for statutory bodies to realise they’re servants of the people with taxpayers’ money.”
He adjourned the case back to next March.