POLL-topper Violet-Anne Wynne has pledged to donate her estimated rent arrears of €12,000 to a mental health charity following her eviction from social housing a few years ago.
The Kilrush-based mother-of-five created a political sensation by becoming the first Sinn Féin candidate to win a Dáil seat in almost 100 years after securing 8,987 first preferences in the General Election.
Rural Resettlement Ireland (RRI) took a case against Violet-Anne Wynne and her partner John Montaine to respond to a claim notice issued for the sum of €12,126 being the amount of four years’ rent arrears up to June 3rd, 2016, according to court documents.
RRI were granted a decree for the repossession of one of their dwellings in Tullycrine, Kilrush by Ennis District Court on July 28, 2017 with a two month stay.
A weekly rent of €63.64 was set under a letting agreement dated December 1, 2011 and the family remained in the Tullycrine house until December 2017.
Ms Wynne insists the couple paid 12 months rent and a deposit until they experienced serious financial difficulties due to health problems.
In last week’s Clare Champion, RRI founder, Jim Connolly proposed that Ms Wynne should make a donation of €12,000 to Mid-West Simon for the benefit of Clare families in view of the fact she will now earn an annual salary of €96,189 and because RRI no longer exists.
“Violet Anne Wynne is now going to be a legislator in the Dáil and I believe a legislator should comply with the law,” he said.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion last week, Ms Wynne declined to comment on the charity donation proposal.
However, in a statement released on Friday night, Ms Wynne has now stated she is “more than willing to pay back the arrears”.
“Doing so is made more complicated as Rural Resettlement Ireland is no longer in existence.
“But if paying back the RRI isn’t possible, I would like instead to pay the money back to a charity such as a mental health charity as those services are underfunded in the region.
“My circumstances have changed now obviously. But at the time of the arrears, my partner was very ill with hemiplegic migraine, which leads to symptoms like those suffered by people having a stroke.
“He was out of work as a result and we also had a sick child too so we were travelling back and forth to Limerick every day with him to the hospital.
“It was a difficult time for us but thankfully our circumstances have changed,” she stated.
Last week, she said to have the court case raised continuously in an attempt to attack her smacks of desperation from those who want to discredit her and distract her from her work.
“The people of Clare have elected me as their TD and I am proud to represent this constituency.
“I look forward to bringing real world experience of the difficulties that ordinary families face to the Dáil and to getting stuck into my work on behalf of the people of Clare,” she said.
Mr Connolly has released a copy of a statement that was presented during the court case.
“I share what I believe to be the premise of Irish society in general that the right to a house or equivalent shelter is a human right.
“However, the fundamental question here today is whether that right extends to the provision of a completely free house at the expense of the taxpayer to all irrespective of their means,
“All 21 social houses built or purchased by RRI in Clare were 100% funded by the State. In the case of the family at the centre of this case today, their view on paying rent is unique in my experience.
“Based on information provided by the family themselves they have an income from the State and are not destitute; they appear to be able to run a car, pay tax and insurance, pay at the pump for fuel, pay for groceries at the check-out, pay utility bills and appear to look after their family in every respect; but when it comes to paying rent to this housing charity their virtual refusal is beyond my comprehension,” he stated.
The statement read out in court also described their payment record from day one as “catastrophic”.
“By the end of the first year the family had accumulated arrears of €1,763. By the end of year two, their arrears were €4,106. The last payment we received was €65 on August 2013. I believe this record speaks for itself.
“RRI have taken every possible step to try and persuade the family to pay their rent including writing letters over a number of years and personal visits to the family by myself and our financial administrator. All these efforts were in vain.
“What we have in effect is a family wholly supported in their lifestyle by the taxpayer living virtually rent free in a brand new rural house also 100% funded by the taxpayer,” he stated.
Speaking to the Clare Champion on Saturday, Mr Connolly recalled the money owed to RRI should go a housing charity such as Mid-West Simon, which was his nominated beneficiary.
The RRI founder said he would issue a statement about Ms Wynne’s pledge when the chosen charity publicly confirmed it had received all this money.