Just over one-third of the annual budget for Traveller-specific accommodation has been spent this year, with seven local authorities yet to draw down any funds.
A total of €18 million was allocated for Traveller housing this year and €6.2 million has been drawn down, according to the Department of Housing.
A number of councils – including Kilkenny (€764,374), Dublin city (€727,123) and Offaly (€676,727) – have drawn down significant sums but local authorities in Carlow, Cavan, Louth, Westmeath and the Dublin areas of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal and South Dublin have not yet obtained any funding.
The latest annual “Traveller count”, conducted in 2020, found that an increasing number of households were living on “unauthorised sites” by the side of the road in the three Dublin areas yet to draw down any funds. Nationally, however, the numbers of households living by the side of the road fell by 11.5 per cent in the same period.
Geraldine Dunne, co-ordinator of the Southside Travellers Action Group (Stag) in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, said she found it “very hard to believe” that the authority had drawn down no funding when there was a “huge waiting list” for Traveller housing.
“There’s about 50 families in the area that would need housing,” she said. “There’s overcrowding on sites. They are doubling up on bays… in caravans and sharing facilities with other families.”
A spokesman for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said it would soon submit a claim for €172,561.75 for capital spending on Traveller accommodation so far this year.
Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said last year and 2020 were the only years since 2014 when allocations for Traveller housing were fully spent. Local authorities were then directed to ensure basic sanitary facilities, like running water and portaloos, were provided to Traveller households during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The worry now is that local authorities will not spend the full allocation this year, as pre-Covid, with many drawing nothing or very little,” he said.
Since 2000, €69 million earmarked for Traveller housing has gone unspent. In 2019, €8.6 million of the €13 million allocated was spent, while in 2018 and 2017 almost half the national allocations were not spent. In 2018, 10 local authorities did not spend anything.
Minister of State at the Department of Housing Peter Burke said he was confident that the full allocation would be drawn down by the end of the year.
A Department of Housing spokesman said the capital allocation for this year was “on course for full draw down, in line with the full drawdown of the allocation in 2020 and 2021″.