25 Jun 2022

‘I have to live behind bars to feel safe’ in own home, says Longford widow

‘I have to live behind bars to feel safe’ in own home, says Longford widow

An elderly woman has told a court of how she “has to live behind bars to feel safe” after a string of burglaries forced her into erecting a ‘ring of steel’ around her home.

Widow Mary Kelly was in attendance at last week’s sitting of Longford District Court to answer claims made by local authority officials that her actions are in contravention to planning and development laws.

The Council are prosecuting the mother of ten under Section 156 of the Planning and Development Act, 2000.

“I hate knowing I have to live behind bars to feel safe,” she told District Court Judge Seamus Hughes.

Ms Kelly said she had been absent from the property for a period of time, but returned to it last year following the death of her husband around seven years previously.

She said the five bedroom bungalow had been targeted by thieves on three separate occasions and had even been used as a drugs den before her return.

The Longford pensioner also told of how a garda had even encouraged her to install the safety measures following the most recent break-in.

“A garda advised me on the third time it was broken into,” she said, adding that came the night of her husband’s wake.

“It (house) was destroyed. Everything was turned upside down and apparently there were drug addicts in it.”

In a further revelation, Ms Kelly said her attempts to turn her home into a fortress has also seen a number of interested suitors approach her with a view to buying it.

“People have actually come to me to say would I be interested in selling the house,” she said

“I couldn't believe it.”

She also said the decision to erect iron bars across her windows and doors had not gone down well with some of her neighbours, who she said had been “very awkward” over the move.

Ms Kelly expressed further anxiety, saying how she has been left fearful of what might happen to her property when she is a way from it.

“My brother is very sick at the minute and facing open heart surgery,” she said, revealing how she routinely travels to see him.

Judge Seamus Hughes empathised with Ms Kelly’s plight and hinted at whether the elderly woman might not be alone when it comes to protecting her home.

“Maybe in three or four years there will be a lot of other households who will follow suit,” he said in reference to the iron bars Ms Kelly stares out on on a daily basis. Solicitor for Longford County Council Frank Gearty said he would write to Superintendent Seamus Boyle to find out the “particulars of the intrusions” encountered at Ms Kelly’s home.

Legal aid was also granted to Ms Kelly, before Judge Hughes adjourned the case until later in the year, telling the Longford woman: “The court has great sympathy for you.”

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