Councillors seek answers about discovery of tenant’s remains in council house

Body of Michael Whiston (S76) found as council workers cleared south Dublin house

The death last year of an elderly local authority tenant whose body was not found until last week is to be raised with Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council by councillors.

Cllr Tom Kivlehan of the Green party said the discovery of the decomposed remains of Michael Whiston (76) in Sallynoggin, south Dublin, months after he had died raised a number of questions, including how a similar tragic case could be avoided in the future.

Cllr Justin Moylan of Fianna Fáil said he wanted to ask the council about the circumstances in which work to clear a house was commenced while the tenant was dead inside the property.

Last Wednesday council workers went to clear out a cottage on Sallynoggin Road Lower where Mr Whiston lived after Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council had tried to contact him and apparently concluded the house had been abandoned.


However, the council’s workers found an old hand grenade in the house, believed to date back to the War of Independence, and a security operation by the Garda and Army was put in place. After the grenade was made safe by Army bomb-disposal specialists, clearing work resumed at the house and Mr Whiston’s remains were found by the council workers.

A postmortem has concluded he died last year, with his remains having lain undiscovered for months. There was no foul play in his death and sources described him as a hoarder and someone who did not mix with other people in the local community. Conditions in the house were said to be “extremely poor”.

A Garda inquiry is under way, which the force said would inform the inquest process. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said as gardaí were investigating, it would not comment on the case.

‘Red flags’

Cllr Kivlehan told The Irish Times he planned to raise the case at a meeting of the council on Monday as the sad circumstances around Mr Whiston’s death and discovery of his body warranted closer examination.

“There should be red flags which would be raised in a case like this,” he said. “If you have a period of time and there is no rent coming in [to the council] for the house, especially for someone who is an older tenant . . . I think there needs to be a flagging system that if rent is not paid for even two or three months then that would be flagged.”

Cllr Moylan said it seemed the house where Mr Whiston's remains were found had been selected for clearing on the basis that it was empty, yet the tenant was dead inside the house. He planned to ask the council about those circumstances. "I will raise that with the council," he said, adding the case was very sad and he would take a "sensitive" approach.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has said “a Garda investigation is currently under way and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council will not be issuing a statement at this time”.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times