‘Our situation is dire’ claims family of eight living in small caravan

A family of eight who are facing Christmas living in a small caravan say they are desperate to secure housing from Galway County Council in order to have “basic human dignity” and bring an end to a saga that is taking a great toll on a couple and their six children, ranging in age from 16 down to 5.

Martin and Margaret Corcoran, along with their six children, had a home in Ballinasloe until February of this year when they say they were served a termination notice because their landlord wanted to sell the property which they were renting.

According to the Residential Tenancy Board, once a termination notice is deemed to be correctly served on this basis, the tenant must comply and leave the property.


The result of losing their long-term home in rented private accommodation in Riverview, Ballinasloe was that the family were forced to take desperate action and move into a one-room caravan, which they borrowed from a family member.

Initially, the family pitched the caravan on private property near their previous home. However, they were advised that a court order was being sought for their removal. To avoid enduring the humiliation of such a development, the family moved the borrowed caravan to the parking lot of a council-owned estate in Meadowbrook, Ballinasloe, where they have lived since May of this year.


“The council keep telling us that due to the ages of our children, they will only consider housing us in a five-bedroom house. We don’t want a five-bedroom house, all we want is basic human dignity. A home that has running water and proper sewerage facilities” explained Martin Corcoran. “As it is, we’re all living and sleeping in one room. It is soul-destroying.

“They (Galway Co Co) say that due to the ages of our children, they’ll only consider housing us in a five-bedroom house if one becomes available. But the reality is that the council are not building or buying five-bedroom houses. I can’t see how it makes sense to leave us in a one-room caravan but not consider us for a two or three or four-bedroom house?

“We have tried everything with the council (Galway Co Co). A few weeks ago (December 6th) we went to the council offices in Galway City. We brought our sleeping bags with us. We were at our wits’ end”.

Of being approached on that occasion by Gardaí, Martin said: “… to be fair, the Gardaí were sound, they appreciated our situation but they had to move us on”.

Martin says that the eldest son (16) of the Corcoran family has a medical condition. “My wife and I sleep in one bed along with my 12-year-old son, eight-year-old daughter, and five-year-old son. Then, my 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old daughter sleep in the second smaller bed and my eldest lad sleeps on the floor.

“We’ve put down roots here. The kids are in school. The only caveat we have at this stage is that we can stay in and around Ballinasloe”.

Added complexity 

Adding a dimension of complexity to the situation the Corcoran family faces is that while they are pitching their caravan on council property “no offer of housing will be made”. That is according to a response received by Eamonn O’Cuiv (Fianna Fáil TD) from Galway County Council officials.

The email, which the Roscommon People has had sight of, says: “This family have a 5 bed need and are currently occupying a caravan in a Council estate. The family remain on the list, however should a suitable property come available our Director of Services has explained that no offer will be made whilst there is a caravan in a council estate, I understand that other elected members have indeed explained this to the family on occasions”.

Martin explained that he simply doesn’t know what to do: “If I stay here on council property, I’m being penalised. If I move to the roadside, I’ll be moved on. I don’t own any land to pitch it on myself. I’m a broken man”.

Despite the family trying to make the best of what is a self-evidently terrible situation, the level of physical, mental and emotional trauma on the faces of Margaret and Martin was plain to be seen.

“The bed sheets are damp, we have no running water” Martin says, adding that due to the ongoing stress and the living conditions they have to contend with, the parents felt they weren’t in a position to send their children to school over the past three weeks.

“I’m trying to keep my family together as best as I can but I’ve tried everything and going to the media was the last thing we wanted to do. But we were getting nowhere going any other way”.

*Shortly before we went to press, Galway County Council acknowledged receipt of our queries but was not in a position to submit a response at this point.