Galway councils accused of ‘institutional racism’ by Traveller group

Report by group outlines problems with heat, cooking facilities , leaks and rodents

At one housing scheme, the report states: ‘Some toilets are sinking into the ground with bad smells and sewerage issues developing’

At one housing scheme, the report states: ‘Some toilets are sinking into the ground with bad smells and sewerage issues developing’

 

Local authorities in Galway have been accused of “institutional racism” by a group representing the Traveller community, due to a failure to improve accommodation standards.

Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) said “no meaningful progress” has been made by Galway City and County Councils to the “uninhabitable, unsafe and unhealthy” accommodation Travellers are living in.

The group has published its latest report, Traveller Homes Now, on Traveller accommodation in Galway.

The report says almost none of the health and safety concerns raised by the Traveller community have been addressed across 18 halting sites and group housing schemes in Co Galway since monitoring began in 2017.

Problems with heat and cooking facilities, insulation, overcrowding, leaks and rodents have been outlined in the report.

At one housing scheme, the report states: “Any heat in the houses escapes through the gaps in the windows.

“Some toilets are sinking into the ground with bad smells and sewerage issues developing. In one house the washing machine has to be filled manually from the sink by the tenant.”

Bridget Kelly, from the GTM said the report is “very distressing but unfortunately it is no longer shocking”.

“Traveller families are being forced to live in these disgraceful and stressful conditions for decades now because our landlords – Galway City and County Councils – continue to blatantly ignore the rights of our community to safe and healthy culturally appropriate accommodation,” she said.

“This is not a question of lack of money, laws or policy. It is a question of institutional racism in its rawest form. We are being forced to choose between our cultural rights and basic need for decent accommodation for our children and loved ones. It’s unjust, undeniable and unforgiveable.”

The Galway Traveller Movement has called for the “speedy establishment” of an independent national agency to oversee the planning and development of Traveller accommodation.

The group also said local authorities in Galway haven’t drawn down all of the funding allocated to them for Traveller accommodation for this year.

Galway City Council said it adopted a five-year Traveller accommodation programme this year to house 242 Traveller families up to 2024.

“In the period 2014-2019, the programme provided 194 accommodation supports for Traveller families in Galway city,” a council spokesman said.

“Details on the programme for the construction of a number of Traveller specific accommodation schemes will be discussed at the first meeting of the Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee in early 2020.”