Galway Travellers living in rat-infested conditions, report finds

Councils accused of breaching their tenants’ international human rights

Travellers in Galway are living in overcrowded, damp and mouldy accommodation with overflowing sewerage, insecure electricity, rat and fly infestations and no facilities for children.

Many live in sites without regular rubbish collections and where their landlords – the local authorities – carry out little or no maintenance despite the fact Travellers pay rent for their homes.

The findings, detailed in a report published on Friday, paint a picture of poverty and social exclusion for hundreds of Traveller adults and children across Galway city and county.

The #TravellerHomesNow report, compiled by the Galway Traveller Movement, examines conditions at 18 Traveller sites and group housing schemes. It is written as a "response to over 18 years of prevarication, failed targets and tokenistic interaction" from local authorities, its authors say.


The study benchmarks Traveller accommodation against the standards set down by the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The UN group says: “housing and accommodation is [sic] integrally linked to other human rights and is central to the fundamental underpinning of those rights” – ie to the “dignity of the human person”.

Adequate housing, it says, must have adequate space, protection from cold and damp, sustainable access to energy for cooking and lighting, be in a location allowing access to employment, healthcare and education, and enable the inhabitants’ “expression of cultural identity”.

Among the 10 sites in Galway city, overcrowding is found to be "particularly serious" at Cul Trá in Salthill, while "swarms of flies and rodent infestation is particularly alarming at the Carrowbrowne temporary halting site on the Headford Road".

Some 16 families, including 29 adults and 39 children, live at one Carrowbrowne transient site where “pipes for sinks, showers, washing machines” are constantly blocked and “water and sewerage comes up over the ground and through the bays”. There is no playground or green space. A second, temporary site in Carrowbrowne is home to 13 families, with 36 children. It is infested with rats and has plumbing and sewerage problems.

There is no alternative accommodation for any of the 16 families, including 25 children, at the overcrowded Cul Trá which is poorly maintained and has no play facilities.

Also overcrowded is the seven-bay Tuam Road permanent site, which is home to 16 adults and 22 children.

Council commitment

Outside the city, eight sites and schemes were surveyed, including the six-bay Craughwell permanent halting site a mile outside the village. Families there have been waiting since 2006, when the county council first committed to redeveloping the site to adequate permanent housing.

Bathrooms in outhouses are “not fit for use”, toilets leak and the units are “too cold for washing” in. Doors are damaged, windows won’t close and there is no play area.

At Gort Bridge housing scheme outside Loughrea, all seven units are occupied. They are "cold and damp", yards are "infested with rats" and barriers to the site mean emergency services cannot access it.

The report concludes both Galway City and Galway County Councils are breaching their Traveller tenants’ international human rights.

"The reality is having detrimental impacts on our health and wellbeing and on the rights of our children to thrive as equals," comments Carrowbrowne resident Angela Delaney in the report.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times