Serious fire safety risks found in 80% of Traveller sites

Three-quarters of homes with no smoke alarms have since been provided with them

Significant fire-safety risks have been found in almost 80 per cent of Traveller accommodation.

An audit from the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) finds however that remedial actions have been taken in up to 77 per cent of cases.

The survey was ordered on October 13th last year, three days after the deaths of 10 people, including five children, at a temporary halting site in Carrickmines, south Dublin.

Published by the Department of Housing, the report is dedicated to the memory of Willie Lynch (25), his fiancée Tara Gilbert (27) and their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4); Thomas Connors (25), his wife Sylvia (27) and their children Jimmy (5), Christy (2) and Mary (6 months), and Willie's and Sylvia's brother Jimmy Lynch (39) . Ms Gilbert was four months pregnant when she died.


There are almost 10,000 Traveller households in the State but this audit focuses on those deemed most at risk – the almost 2,000 in unauthorised sites, halting sites, group housing, basic serviced bays, sharing bays, and sharing transient bays.

Some 81 per cent of these had no working smoke alarm, while 57 per cent of households were in mobile homes or other units that were less than the safe 6 metres distance apart from other units.

“The condition of electrical installations generally, and in particular the external use of multiple plug adaptors was identified as an issue of 62 per cent of the sites appraised. Of these 51 per cent have had remedial works carried out.”

Some 77 per cent of the homes with no smoke alarms have been provided with them, and action has been taken in the cases of 35 per cent of units deemed too close together.

While “remedial work has been completed...there is still work to do to deliver on the goal of ensuring... fire safety measures” are applied to all Traveller housing, it says.

It highlights the “particular challenges in trying to improve fire safety for certain groups of society” and in “a context where relations between Travellers and the broader community and the state... are sometimes characterised as testing, with a lack of trust and suspicion”.

A guide, drawn up for local authorities on Traveller fire safety could not “deal with overcrowding or other broader site management issues”.

However “it does recognise...protecting people from the dangers of fire is particularly challenging in the confined and cramped conditions [OF]families living in caravans or non standard accommodation”.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times