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For Dolphin House residents, concerns over ‘inhumane’ conditions continue

For Linda Burnett-Bowdler, the ongoing problems with damp and mould at the housing complex in south Dublin have taken their toll on her and her family.

Linda Burnett-Bowdler in her ground floor flat in Dolphin House this week.
Linda Burnett-Bowdler in her ground floor flat in Dolphin House this week.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

RESIDENTS OF THE Dolphin House housing complex in south Dublin continue to live in flats blighted by damp, mould and sewage problems with a third annual report into conditions in the complex presented to Dublin City Council officials this week.

The report by the Rialto Rights in Action network showed that 92 per cent of people living there said that their children had missed school in the past year as a direct result of respiratory problems which affect 37 per cent of the children living in the 436-flat complex according to the survey.

One of these is 17-month-old Jayden Burnett-Bowdler who in the last six weeks was diagnosed with asthma and now has to be administered an inhaler on a regular basis by his mother Linda, who is also on an inhaler and has lived with her family in Dolphin House for the past eight years.

“We lived in one flat for six years where we didn’t have any damp and now we have lived in this flat for 20 months and it’s riddled with damp,” she told TheJournal.ie this week.

“My nine-year-old daughter, Charlie, would have chest infections which take a couple of weeks to clear with an antibiotic but the baby is only 17 months and he has asthma now. I would put it down to the damp.”

Together with her husband Karl, an unemployed home removals man, the couple also have a 12-year-old son, Keaton, whose health has not been greatly impacted by the conditions in her flat but that does not stop the qualified social worker worrying about the toll these living conditions are taking on her family.

Keaton, 12, and Jayden, 1, in their bedroom in the Dolphin House flat. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland.

Though the family have made their own attempts to address the problem it continues to affect their lives on daily basis. Linda said: “It has changed since we first noticed it about three months after we moved in. It’s gotten darker in the living room.

“We’ve treated the walls ourselves, we’ve used anti-damp paint, mildew sprays. We had to decorate again because we had family coming and it’s quite embarrassing having big black walls but the redecoration only lasted three weeks and then we had to do it again.

“When it’s in the bedrooms, you do kind of forget about it. But in the living room, you’d spend more time in there then you would in bed and it’s constantly there. It can be quite embarrassing, you spend a lot of time spraying air freshener just to take the smell away.”

The problems of damp are not confined to Linda’s house. Others in the vast complex housing over 900 people have significant problems with damp, mould and sewage which Dublin City Council have been taking steps to rectify in recent months.

Of the 75 flats surveyed by the Rialto Rights in Action group 72 per cent of residents in them reported having damp in their flats while 57 per cent said they had sewage ‘invasion’ whereby sewage was coming up through plug holes in their flats.

For residents the whole process of solving these problems has been too slow in their view. The same percentage who reported dampness when Rialto Rights in Action produced their first report in 2010 have reported it again in 2012 – 72 per cent.

While other numbers indicate that fewer residents are as displeased with the response from DCC than they were two years ago, the extent of the problem and getting it solved means residents affected by damp are likely to be waiting for months yet before their homes are treated.

Linda explained: “Dublin City Council did a survey and 28 flats were seen as affected so they were going to be moved out, work would be done on them and then we would move back in.

“Initially they said my flat wasn’t damp and but then a second test said it was the worst affected. So they sent us a letter in January saying that you are one of the worst affected and that work would be carried out .

“This process started, a few people were moved, their flats were done up, but they got damp again. So they had to do a new test but this hasn’t been signed off by the council yet and it’s now six months since we got the initial letter. So the council have sent the letters out prematurely and it’s still going to be a long process.

“The most frustrating part is that letter. If it hadn’t been sent out in January, it wouldn’t have been so frustrating.”

There has also been some disquiet with the lack of a response from the government. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government was invited to attend and respond to the concerns of residents when the Rialto Rights in Action group presented their report this week but declined to do so.

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In response to queries from TheJournal.ie the Department of Environment said that the management and maintenance of Dolphin House was a matter for DCC but added that it was “fully committed” to the regeneration of Dublin City housing estates, allocating €40 million to regeneration projects including for community social inclusion initiatives in Dolphin House.

A statement said: “The Department has been in close liaison with the City Council in recent years in relation to maintenance issues and proposals for the overall redevelopment of the complex. A programme of remedial works and condition surveys has resulted from this process.

“The City Council has also prepared a draft schematic masterplan for the flat complex, which was presented to the Department last March for information purposes.

“The draft plan, which contains a number of potential options for the future redevelopment of the complex, will be subject to further design review, consultation and decision-making consideration by the City Council before a capital funding proposal is to be submitted to the Department.”

Residents like Linda have been promised by the council that there will be more developments by 1 July. At a meeting with residents this week, the assistant city manager Dick Brady, admitted to being “shocked” by the statistics on school attendance among children in the complex.

“It’s nice to know that they are moving and they are doing something but they’re just not doing it quick enough,” Linda added.

“It’s just very disheartening when they’re sending letters out and they’re not doing the work. We’re wondering how long we’re going to be affected for.”

She added: “I don’t think it’s acceptable in the year 2012 that people are living in these kind of conditions.

“We’ve moved on from a lot of stuff but clearly we haven’t moved on with the human rights of people. Sometimes you can just look at it and think this is inhumane for children to live in this.”

Read: Council flat conditions a breach of human rights, commission claims

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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