Councils’ compliance with human rights of Travellers investigated

IHREC takes action amid ‘persistent discrimination’ by local authorities against Travellers

Emily Logan of the IHREC. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Emily Logan of the IHREC. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) says every local authority must state whether or not they are complying with human rights obligations to accommodate Travellers.

The 31 councils have been given 10 weeks to comply with the request. If they do not, the commission may initiate legal proceedings against them.

In letters sent this week, the commission tells council chief executives they must carry out an “equality review . . . on the level of equality of opportunity and/or discrimination that exists in relation to members of the Traveller community who wish to avail of Traveller-specific accommodation”.

Council chief executives are told to “review the practices and procedures and other relevant factors in relation to the drawdown of capital funding and the provision of Traveller-specific accommodation services”.

‘Statutory powers’

IHREC chief commissioner Emily Logan said she expected every council to co-operate, but warned any that failed that “the commission’s statutory powers allow it to take further compliance actions”.

This step comes against a backdrop of “persistent discrimination” by local authorities against Travellers, Ms Logan said.

She said some Travellers were being forced to live in “shameful conditions unfit for human habitation”, despite 21 years of legislation mandating every local authority to provide adequate, culturally appropriate accommodation to Travellers, and 19 years of equal-status legislation outlawing discrimination in the provision of services.

Unused funding

Between 2009 and 2018, 59 per cent of funding allocated by central government for Traveller accommodation has been drawn down. So far this year, 19 local authorities have not drawn down any of the €13 million provided and €1.84 million has been spent.

Last year, 10 local authorities drew down no funds for Traveller accommodation. These were: Carlow, Cavan, Cork County, Laois, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Westmeath, Wexford and Galway city.

Ms Logan said that, since its establishment in 2014, IHREC has gathered a large body of evidence, through its legal casework, on obstacles faced by Travellers seeking housing through their local authorities.

“We know there are local authorities that are good in their provision of Traveller accommodation and some that aren’t. This review will allow us to look at those ones that aren’t and report why.”