Traveller children living in ‘dire’ conditions being reported across State

Ombudsman has brought concerns to UN children’s rights committee

Spring Lane halting site in Blackpool, Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Spring Lane halting site in Blackpool, Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

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The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is continuing to receive reports of Traveller children across the State living in dire conditions after the publication in May of a damning report into a Cork city halting site.

Dr Niall Muldoon is calling on Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to assist in identifying where the human rights of Traveller children are being violated and to seek assurances from local authorities that such breaches are being addressed.

The office’s landmark report, No End in Site, catalogued repeated failings by Cork City Council to vindicate the rights of Traveller children at its Spring Lane halting site in Blackpool. Neither the site nor the local authority was named in the report, which identified filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, unsafe and damp living conditions at the site.

It was the first report by the ombudsman’s office into the living conditions of Traveller children, and since then the office had, Dr Muldoon said, “been contacted by a number of people in relation to other sites”.

“To date, eight new complaints have been made in relation to living conditions of Traveller children – some of these relate to local authority sites, others are about the living conditions of specific families,” he said.

“The complaints come from a number of locations around the country. The issues raised are similar to those raised by the 11 families who complained as part of the No End in Site investigation.

“These include inadequate maintenance, including poor sanitation and waste management, lack of safe areas for children to play, concerns about the health and wellbeing of children and the lack of an effective complaints system as a means to get matters resolved.”

Catalyst for change

Dr Muldoon had hoped the No End in Site report would act as a catalyst for the Government to seek assurances from all local authorities about the conditions on the State’s halting sites and the wellbeing of children living on them.

“We hope to meet with An Taoiseach in the coming weeks to discuss our report and to hear about efforts by the Government, and in particular the Minister for Housing, to identify other children suffering in similar conditions,” he said.

The No End in Site report has been submitted to the European Committee of Social Rights, and Dr Muldoon said he had raised his concerns about some Traveller children’s living conditions with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which in July published 31 equality reviews detailing widespread underspend by local authorities of their Traveller accommodation budgets, said it had “more than 100 Traveller clients on file with our legal team, across specific instances of challenging potential discrimination.

“The vast majority of these cases are related to accommodation,” it said.

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