Traveller evictions in Co Louth may breach Carrickmines order

Louth County Council served eviction notices on 23 Traveller families at Woodland Park

A mobile home being removed for transportation following an eviction notice at the site in Woodland Park, Dundalk, Co Louth. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

A mobile home being removed for transportation following an eviction notice at the site in Woodland Park, Dundalk, Co Louth. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Louth County Council’s decision to remove families from an unofficial halting site in Dundalk, citing fire safety concerns, is in breach of a directive issued by the Department of the Environment after 10 people died in the Carrickmines fire in October.

The council last week served eviction notices on 23 Traveller families from a site at Woodland Park after a safety audit by the town’s chief fire officer. The remaining five families have been told they must leave by tomorrow.

A document seen by The Irish Times suggests the evictions are in contravention of a directive from the department issued to all local authorities last December.

“Ultimately, the desired outcome of the project is to be able to report that fire safety in Traveller accommodation has been reviewed, appropriate improvements have been implemented where necessary and to report that a two-pronged programme to enhance awareness of fire safety issues and fire protection measures has been rolled out across the country,” it says.

The document notes, however, “a fear that fire safety may be used as a basis for seeking changes in accommodation arrangements”.

Where sites are shared, caravans may not be spaced at the requisite six metres apart, it says. “While [the document] sets out an approach to dealing with the life safety issues associated with increased numbers of dwellings in confined sites, nothing in this . . . process is intended to be used to address broader Traveller accommodation issues in a negative way.”

Safety concerns

The council said health and safety concerns were the reason for the evictions.

They said a fire audit of the site found “the layout of and facilities were in contravention of most of the fire safety recommendations” for residential caravan parks from the Department of the Environment.

The council did not respond to queries yesterday.

A spokesman for the department confirmed the directive had been issued to all local authorities in December.

“The department’s information is that Louth County Council initiated the process as a result of a health and safety audit which was carried out prior to the launch of the nationally agreed fire safety review process.”

Martin Collins, of Pavee Point, described this as a “pathetic excuse”, saying the document should have been respected. He said the obvious solution was for Woodland Park to be refurbished urgently.

The council yesterday met representatives of the families, many of whom have been left homeless. It initially said it would not meet them while accompanied by a member of Sinn Féin, which has been advocating for them, or by their solicitor Eleanor Kelly.