Pensioners feel abandoned in damp hellhole in Ballymun

by Rose Barrett
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Last month, the Gazette covered the plight of 62-year-old John Smith (not his real name) who lives with COPD and multiple health issues. John is currently living in Burren Court, Poppintree, Ballymun in horrendous damp conditions. 

But he is not alone, The Dublin Gazette spoke to three other elderly residents living at Burren Court who recounted the same story of damp, cold and invasive fungus. 

On Tuesday, last November 15, a tearful John rang the Gazette on his way to an appointment at the Mater Hospital which he is currently attending for pulmonary issues. He had called into to meet with the Liaison Officer yet again, feeling depressed and battling to catch his breath. 

“I keep asking to be moved, I can’t cope with the damp, the fungus coming in on top of me everywhere. I was shown this apartment in August 2019, freshly painted, on a warm day with a lovely little back garden. 

“I accepted the flat. As soon I moved in, the neighbours warned me about the damp and the cold. Given my health, this was never a suitable accommodation for me. I’ve pleaded and asked to be put back on the transfer list but I was told on Tuesday that as I moved only in the last few years, I’m not a priority. 

Annie McCormack (70) has lived in Burren Court for nine to ten years. “I only have to open the bedroom door, and you can smell the damp! I have good clothes and I can’t leave them in the wardrobe. 

“For three years I’ve been complaining. The walls are just plaster boards, there is no proper insulation, even the attic floor is slim and there’s a wind blowing down. 

“It’s baltic living here. All the neighbours are elderly, from 62 up to 85 years of age. Fireplaces were removed and radiators put in and they’re run on gas. I’ve just had a shower, I put in a €20 card and there’s seven euro gone already. Imagine if you had to keep the heaters on all day.” 

The pensioner asked “Did I work all my life for this? I think I’d be safer and more comfortable sleeping in a tent! It’s like all the single pensioners have just been fired in here and forgotten about, left to freeze in the damp and cold.” 

For Joe Smith (75) and Mick Barrett (not his real name), it’s the same situation, damp and fungus on the walls, impossible to heat the full apartment. 

Joe lives with epilepsy and other health issues. “One official came out from the council and said my window needed new rubbers. Another fella came months later and said I needed the whole window replaced. I haven’t seen sight nor sound of them since – and that was about 3 years ago!” 

Mick has lived here for over 10 years and with some building experience, claims the insulation job throughout the block was a disgrace, no one oversaw the work and came back to see what a mess had been left. 

“The sub contractors who did the work put holes right through the walls with pipes and supposedly pumped in the polystyrene. I don’t think anyone checked their work, but the filling literally runs back out the holes and onto the floor. I doubt they used the liquid to bond the insulation! 

“I asked the Liaison Officer to put her hands on the walls and feel the wet. Another council official, said ‘Why don’t you open the windows?’ I’m afraid I will get pneumonia from the clothes hanging in my wardrobe. I have cancer, two aneurisms situated in my chest, but it’s inoperable. And I live like this.” 

Dublin City Council responded that it “does not deal with maintenance requests via the media and will not discuss specific cases for privacy reasons.” 

It advised that the tenants should “contact their Local Area Housing Office to discuss their options and they will provide an update on the situation and endeavour to find a solution.”

However, all four tenants interviewed here are in constant contact with their Liaison Officer.

Photos: Alison O’Hanlon

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