The Irish Traveller Movement (ITM) has criticised the lack of delivery on Traveller accommodation and called for the establishment of a national Traveller accommodation authority to independently oversee its planning and delivery.
While the budget for Traveller accommodation was spent in full last year, it was "important to note that € 4.4 million of that budget was spent on the most basic of emergency provisions to mitigate against Covid-19," Bernard Joyce, chief executive of the ITM said.
These included water tanks and portaloos, and the money was not spent on “new developments,” he said, adding that just seven group houses were built or refurbished in 2020.
Mr Joyce was speaking to the Joint Committee on Housing and the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Joyce reminded the committee of the € 72 million that went unspent from 2008-2019, which he said was “one of the primary causes of the current Traveller accommodation crisis.”
Analysis by the ITM found an “overreliance on HAP for delivery” and highlighted discrimination faced by Travellers in the private rental sector, which made HAP a “wholly inadequate option and lengthens the time spent by Travellers in emergency accommodation or in hidden homelessness in severely overcrowded conditions.”
The ITM welcomed the 32 recommendations made by the Traveller Accommodation Expert Review, Mr Joyce said, but he was “concerned about the rate of progress.”
The establishment of a national Traveller accommodation authority to independently monitor and oversee the planning and delivery of Traveller specific accommodation was one of the most important recommendations and should be prioritised, Mr Joyce said.
Independent Senator Victor Boyhan echoed the ITM's call for an independent monitoring group.
“That is what the Traveller community is looking for and I think we should be able to deliver on it. Local authorities have run into difficulty and simply have not delivered,” Mr Boyhan said.
Mr Boyhan criticised the six month pilot caravan loan scheme currently being rolled out in four local authority areas.
“I was a councillor twenty years ago and we were talking about these schemes then. I’m shocked and surprised we’re piloting these again. If that’s the best people can do here today, it’s very disappointing,” he said.
A "significant amount of consultation with Traveller families and local communities" was required "to build trust," Eugene Cummins, Chief Executive Roscommon County Council said.
Mr Cummins was representing the County and City Management Association.
It was “important to consider the potential reasons behind objections to the development of Traveller accommodation,” he said, adding that Traveller accommodation sites tend to be “associated with increased levels of crime, violence, anti- social behaviour, illegal dumping and burning, as well as with social issues.”
“These issues need to be tackled alongside the housing issues,” he said.