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Hackney Council intent on unprecedented High Court injunction against Irish Traveller family

PUBLISHED: 17:01 28 December 2012

Doug Halton collecting signatures for his petition

Doug Halton collecting signatures for his petition

Archant

A petition with over 150 signatures has been handed to Hackney Council supporting the Traveller family facing an unprecedented High Court injunction, which could ban them from camping on any public land in the borough.

The McDonaghs hit the headlines last year after playing a three year cat and mouse chase across the borough with the council.

The family, made up of four couples and several children, were moved off land near Homerton Road in 2009 and again last March, before they moved onto Mabley Green, Stoke Newington Common and Millfields Park.

Mrs Annie McDonagh insists her Irish Traveller heritage has given her a “phobia of bricks and mortar”, and she and her family have nowhere else to live while they sit on the council’s long waiting list for an official pitch, of which Hackney has 17 – the third highest number in inner London.

A Freedom of Information request has now shown the council has spent over £200,000 on eviction-related costs over the last two years, on top of officer time.

Stoke Newington resident Doug Holton, of Alkham Road, got to know the McDonaghs when they were camped on Stoke Newington Common, and has collected 150 signatures on a petition, calling for the council to accommodate them on a temporary piece of unused land.

He believes this would be a simpler and cheaper solution to constant eviction – a view shared by the London Gypsy and Traveller Unit in London Fields.

“I believe the council is behaving inhumanely to this family and further they are not being prudent in their use of public money,” said Mr Holton.

But the council is set on the unprecedented step of a permanent injunction potentially banning all of the McDonaghs from all public land in Hackney.

The case will be heard in the High Court later this month.

An interim ‘Dale Farm’ style injunction banned the family from land near Olympic sites during the Games last year.

A council spokeswoman said they would not tolerate encampments by any group in the borough’s parks and open spaces.

“The council is committed not only to protecting our existing permanent sites, but to continue efforts to identify new sites,” she said.

“The shortage and cost of land makes the task extremely difficult.”

The family are currently living next to an Asda superstore just over the borough border in Leyton, where Waltham Forest council’s attempts at eviction have so far been unsuccessful.

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