Emily Logan reminds councils of duty to accommodate Travellers

Human rights and equality body writes to all local authorities to highlight 2014 Act

Emily Logan: Raised the issue of Traveller accommodation when speaking at an event in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan.

Emily Logan: Raised the issue of Traveller accommodation when speaking at an event in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan.

 

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has written to all local authorities in the State highlighting the duty on public bodies to to eliminate discrimination in their day-to-day work.

Addressing the issue of Traveller accommodation when speaking at an event in Dublin, the head of the commission Emily Logan confirmed she had written to senior management of all local authorities drawing their attention to the new public sector duty provided for by section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act, 2014.

“This places a duty on public bodies, including local authorities, to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and protect human rights, in the performance of their functions,” she said.

She said the commission was concerned that, in relation to Traveller accommodation, the number of those living on the roadside and sharing accommodation was increasing year on year, while the level of capital investment in Traveller accommodation accessed through the Department of the Environment was low or non-existent in respect of some local authorities.

Ms Logan said although housing legislation allowed for the provision of emergency halting sites, these emergency measures were only intended to provide a very basic level of services to members of the Traveller community, pending the provision of permanent accommodation.

“Basic emergency sites are not intended to become de facto permanent accommodation; however, this is the reality for many Traveller families.”

“The commission considers that such accommodation cannot, in the long term, vindicate the right to dignity and protection of the person or the individuals concerned,” she said.

Ms Logan was referring to the recent tragedy in Carrickmines in which 10 people, including five children, died in a fire that engulfed a cabin and a caravan on a temporary halting site on Glenamuck Road, in south Dublin.

“In the wake of the unprecedented tragedy that befell the families living on the site on Glenamuck Road in Carrickmines, an examination of citizenship from the standpoint of the excluded citizen has never been more important,” Ms Logan said.

The 15 people left homeless by the Carrickmines fire moved into a temporary site provided by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council last Sunday.

The move to the site, a council-owned car park on the Ballyogan Road, follows failed attempts by the council to provide emergency accommodation at Rockville Drive which is closer to the scene of the fire.

The proposed move to the site on Rockville Drive drew media attention after local residents blocked access to the site preventing any preparation work from taking place.

“A human rights approach articulates and challenges the discriminatory barriers experienced by members of the Traveller community in accessing appropriate accommodation, over and above those experienced by the rest of society,” she said.

Ms Logan highlighted a recent Supreme Court judgment that highlighted how poor-quality Traveller accommodation “may not only be a breach of a local authority’s statutory duty, but may in certain circumstances also amount to a breach of the constitutional right to autonomy, bodily integrity and privacy.”