Settled residents should no longer be consulted on Traveller homes – advocates
Consultation changes and legal sanctions on authorities would help to address Traveller housing targets, say Irish Traveller Movement and Pavee Point
An unpublished Housing Agency report showing Traveller housing targets have not been met at any point since they became compulsory for local authorities in 1998 was commissioned by Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times
Elected councillors and members of the settled community should no longer be consulted on the provision of Traveller accommodation, Traveller advocates have said.
This, and legal sanctions on local authorities failing to meet their own Traveller accommodation targets, are necessary to address authorities’ ongoing failure to meet mandatory Traveller housing targets, they say.
The Irish Traveller Movement and Pavee Point were responding to details, reported in The Irish Times on Thursday, of an unpublished Housing Agency report showing Traveller housing targets have not been met at any point since they became compulsory for local authorities in 1998.
The report, commissioned by Minister of State at the Department of Housing Damien English, is a review of the effectiveness of Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs) – which must be drawn up every five years by local authorities to set targets for the delivery of Traveller accommodation – and funding provided for them. Its findings will feed into a review of the 1998 Act.
It finds more than €55 million for Traveller accommodation remains unspent since 2000 and that just 68 per cent (6,394) of the 9,390 units of Traveller promised since 200 have been provided. Among the major obstacles to Traveller accommodation it finds, are objections by settled residents and councillors and possible racism among local authority staff responsible for its delivery.
“At this stage it’s time to think outside the box,” said Martin Collins, co-director of Pavee Point. “The current legislative and planning structures aren’t working. The 1998 Traveller Accommodation Act isn’t working and the situation for Travellers is probably worse now than it was 19 years ago.
“We welcome the review of the 1998 Act and would be calling for sanctions to be imposed on local authorities that don’t meet their own Traveller accommodation targets.”
Local authority chief executives should also be directed by the Minister for Housing to use their executive powers to overrule councillors who vote down planned Traveller accommodation.
He agreed with a call from the Irish Traveller Movement that Traveller accommodation be exempt from consultation with local residents, as is necessary under part VIII of the planning process. An ITM spokeswoman said Traveller-specific accommodation should be “redirected for planning approval via An Bord Pleanála”.
She called for a “review and audit of local authorities’ use of emergency powers where Traveller accommodation could and should be accelerated, with a view to ministerial intervention”.
Mr Collins said the unpublished report “proves everything we have been saying about discrimination and failures in Traveller accommodation, for donkeys years.”