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5 November 1998 Edition

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Cosy caravan for two - mother and son.

By Roisín de Rossa

``I am suffering for the sins of the world,'' says Francis Kerrigan. More to the point he is suffering for the sins of the Tipperary North Riding County Council housing authorities, who have left Francis, who has spina bifida, over three years, in an unserviced 14ft caravan, which he can't get in or out of. ``If they ever get to the gates of heaven, they'll never be let in'', he adds.

Francis is a young man of 28, who lives with his mother Nora on Ballyvillane Traveller site in Nenagh, North Tipperary. Nora (65) took a heart attack that her doctor said was so severe it would have killed a healthy young person. She is on 17 pills a day, and to prove it she opens her Dunne's stores bag of pills, and tips them out onto the trailer's seat.

Nora has to lift Francis into the trailer, out of it, into the toilet, 20 feet away. Francis can only walk on the level with his frame, which won't fit down the passageway of the trailer.

The two of them share the little trailer. Cosy. So cosy Francis couldn't get out for days because there was no one to lift him.

Paddy Heffernan, Housing Officer, explains how the ``Kerrigan saga is a long story, which goes back several years, and he has had the press beating down the door.'' He had Mr Kerrigan too, who was carried up to his office last week, whom he kept waiting for an hour. ``But,'' says Paddy Heffernan, ``Francis is driving round the town every day, in a car, so he can't be that immobile.''

After three years on the site, and a lot of re-organising, the Council was able to offer Francis a house in Borrisokane, two weeks ago. Meanwhile Nora's brother, who lived nearby and could have helped her, had moved elsewhere, and Nora and Francis are reluctant to take up the offer. They are asking for a serviced caravan, with toilet and hot water. How would that have been three years ago when they first moved onto the site? A few shovels of concrete would have given access.

Nothing explains why for three years Nora and Francis have been left to live in conditions which are an ``offence to humanity. Who is to blame?'' asks, Jimmy Nolan, ex-Councillor. ``Are the County. Council officials a law unto themselves, or are they answerable to the elected councillors and people at all? I'd wonder.'' So he might.

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