Council meeting forced to adjourn as Traveller plan prompts anger

Families to be affected by plan say they do not get on and will refuse to live side by side

Independent councillor Declan Bree, who   voted against the plan. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Independent councillor Declan Bree, who voted against the plan. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

A meeting of Sligo County Council had to be adjourned amid angry scenes after local representatives voted in favour of refurbishing a halting site, despite opposition from two Traveller families.

Before Monday’s meeting members of the Ward and McGinley families held a silent protest outside council headquarters to highlight what they described as lack of consultation by officials.

The families believe the council intends to move the McGinley family from a carpark on Connaughton Road where they have lived for more than 30 years, into the Glenview halting site on Ash Lane which has been home to the Ward family for 15 years. The families say that they do not get on together and will refuse to live side by side.

While the council has not confirmed that it intends to move the McGinleys, it is widely believed its plan to refurbish six derelict halting bays at Glenview, at an estimated cost of €850,000, is part of its plan to resolve the Connaughton Road impasse . The Wards say the families will be separated by a 10 foot wall, making their home “like a prison”.

Speaking after councillors voted by 13 votes to two to go ahead with the proposal, Jamie Murphy, from the Sligo Traveller Support Group, said it could result in the Ward family moving back on the roadside after 15 years in Glenview.

Very upset

“The families are very upset. The council has not taken on board the advice they got from them or their representatives, and have rammed this through,” he said.

But Fianna Fáil councillor Tom MacSharry, one of those who supported the motion, said the council would be a laughing stock if it turned down the opportunity to secure such significant funding in the middle of a housing crisis.

“There is an onus on us to secure whatever funding we can to secure accommodation and it would send out the wrong message if we turned this down,” he said.

In reply, Marie McGinley said the council would be a laughing stock if it wasted taxpayers money and both families refused to live in the halting site. “They never came to me and my family. We do want to move out of Connaughton Road but we’re not moving in there,” she said.

Independent councillor Declan Bree who along with People Before Profit’s Gino O’Boyle voted against the plan, said it was about more than planning. “It’s about the way this council treats an ethnic minority, it’s about the way this council consults with people,” he said.

Mr Bree pointed out that all the Traveller representatives on the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee had recently resigned in protest at the lack of consultation in relation to this halting site.

Second-class citizens

“The Traveller representatives of the consultative committee feel that they have been treated with contempt and they feel they have been treated as second-class citizens,” he added.

After the vote, some Travellers returned to the council chamber and shouted at councillors.

Leas Cathaoirleach Keith Henry adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes amid noisy scenes.

In a statement the council said six of the eight bays at Glenview were “unused and derelict”.

It said that an objective of its Traveller Accommodation Plan 2014 to 2018 was the redevelopment of this site to provide more permanent accommodation for families there.

The council said a scheme of group housing was being advanced to meet this objective which had been the subject of “extensive discussion” with the family there. The council said that separately it was proposed to refurbish the six derelict bays.