Traveller protest at ‘total failure’ of accommodation strategy

Traveller accommodation committee says more than 1,200 families effectively homeless, more than in 1999

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation at the Fingal County Council offices in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Members of the Travelling community protesting over accommodation at the Fingal County Council offices in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 


Hundreds of people have protested in Dublin at what they described as the “total failure” of the 15-year-old Traveller accommodation strategy.

The protest outside Fingal County Council offices in Blanchardstown was attended by groups from west Cork, Cork city, Kilkenny, Laois, Limerick and Offaly, as well as from Ballyfermot, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin and Fingal in Dublin.

They called for the issue to be taken away from city and county councils and for an independent Traveller accommodation agency to be set up. Failing that, they called on Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to use the Housing Act to intervene where local authorities were failing to address Traveller accommodation needs.

Under the 1998 Traveller Accommodation Act, every local authority is mandated to draw up four-yearly Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAPs).

To date none, across the 34 local authorities, has been fully delivered. Figures from the National Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee show that while 303 Traveller families are living on unauthorised sites, a further 952 are either sharing sites or housing with other families or living long-term on transient sites.

The committee says there are thus more than 1,200 families effectively homeless, more than in 1999. There are 9,911 Traveller families in the State.

Martin Collins, director of Pavee Point, said he was there in solidarity with “all Traveller families living in overcrowded, Third World conditions”.

“The local authorities, the Department of the Environment and successive governments have failed the Travelling people. Government has failed to impose any sanctions on local authorities who have shown they have no will to provide housing for Travellers.”

Brigid Quilligan, director of the Irish Traveller Movement, said given cuts to the national Traveller accommodation budget to less than €4 million next year, “we can expect there will be no new units built next year, no refurbishments”.

A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said Minister of State for Housing Jan O’Sullivan had ordered mid-term reviews of Traveller Accommodation Programmes to run from 2014 to 2018.