Call for Traveller housing powers to be taken from local councils

Issue must be dealt with at national level because of ‘racism’, committee hears

Blaming the non-delivery of housing on anti-social behaviour was not acceptable since no other community was punished for the actions of a few, said Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis.  Photograph: Collins

Blaming the non-delivery of housing on anti-social behaviour was not acceptable since no other community was punished for the actions of a few, said Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis. Photograph: Collins

Tue, May 14, 2013, 18:16

Local council’s should be stripped of their powers over Traveller accommodation because of their ineffectiveness on delivering housing need, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Travellers were being forced into standard accommodation, have been left homeless and in housing without water and electricity while councils failed to spend millions of euro allocated to them to build Traveller specific accommodation, Traveller groups said.

“This has to be raised to a national level because there is a degree of racism in the country,” said Fianna Fáil Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, member of the Oireachtas committee on environment.

Blaming the non-delivery of housing on anti-social behaviour was not acceptable since no other community was punished for the actions of a few, said Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis.

Travellers were being assimilated into the settled community through the State’s housing policy, said Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Traveller Movement. “We have been consulted until we are blue in the face but we are not listened to,” she said.

Groups in Cork had been told there was no money for accommodation yet it had emerged that €6 million was available and not spent, said Chrissie O’Sullivan of the Traveller Visibility Group. “There are no sanctions for local authorities that fail communities and we were failed,” she said.

But David O’Connor, city manager of Fingal County Council, said he didn’t “accept that there is some sort of ethnic cleansing going on”. Dick Brady, assistant city manager of Dublin City Council, said 79 housing units and three community centres had been destroyed through anti-social behaviour and criminality.

It was also incorrect to add up money not drawn down by local councils since the same money not spent one year could be made available the following year, said Martin Riordan, county manager of Cork County Council.