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The Scandalous Lack Of Traveller Accommodation

category national | racism & migration related issues | opinion/analysis author Thursday October 15, 2015 22:07author by pbp Report this post to the editors

Accommodation is one of the most critical issues for the Traveller community and is identified in the 2013-2020 Healthy Ireland Report as the most significant determinant on health.

The Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 enshrines in law the requirement of local authorities to provide culturally appropriate accommodation in all its forms, including halting sites, group housing schemes, standard houses and transient accommodation to Travellers.

Local authorities, following a consultation process with locally based Traveller organisations and the Traveller community are required to prepare and adopt a 5 year Traveller Accommodation Programme (TAP) to meet the existing and projected accommodation needs of Travellers in their areas.

However the picture is one of absolute failure and neglect.

The report of the task force on the Travelling Community in 1995 recommended that 3,100 units of Traveller specific accommodation be provided, yet two decades later less than 10% of this has been provided despite increased demand.

With the state’s failure to deliver accommodation for Travellers, increasing numbers of Traveller families are finding themselves homeless.

Travellers are not enumerated as homeless unless they present to the homeless agency, nonetheless 549 Traveller families are living on the side of the road or in unofficial or temporary halting sites and 663 Traveller families are estimated to be sharing accommodation, accounting for over 4000 individuals. These Traveller families have been invisible in the government’s supposedly renewed strategy to address homelessness.

Traveller organisations at local and national levels have consistently voiced concerns in relation to the safety of many Traveller families who are forced to endure living in intolerable conditions, with severe overcrowding and often without access to the most basic of services such as water, sanitation or electricity and on sites with poor standards of maintenance and poor management by the local authorities.

In some areas where families have been provided with basic services of water, sanitation and electricity the services are contained within a steel “shed” often a couple of meters away from the families trailer resulting in parents having to take their children across a dark yard often in the heavy rain during the night to use the bathroom.

The horrific fire in the halting site in Carrickmines last weekend where 10 members of the Traveller community tragically lost their lives has heightened fire safety concerns among Traveller families right across the country.

Currently 3,741 Traveller family units of accommodation are required to meet the accommodation needs of Traveller families and yet only €4.3 million was allocated for the capital Traveller Accommodation budget in 2015.

The allocation of a national budget of €4.3 million fails to come close to the targets set out in the TAPs for this year. It undermines the consultation process carried out with the Traveller community and in effect makes it a failed process.

The accommodation budget has been dramatically reduced since 2007 when the budget was €70 million.

However, even when budgets were available some local authorities did not even bother to draw down the funding. During the period 2008-2012 four local authorities failed to draw down €50 million between them and Dublin City Council (DCC) failed to draw down €12.5 million. Yet there is no accountability or sanctions for non-delivery.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance said in its Second Report on Ireland (23 April 2002) that “the fact that no sanctions are provided for in the Housing (Traveller Accommodation) Act 1998 against authorities who do not take measures to provide accommodation for Travellers may weaken its effectiveness.”

The FG/Labour government turns a blind eye to the fact that 15 local authorities across the country did not request or draw down any budget to deliver for Traveller accommodation this year. They are Carlow, Cavan, Donegal, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, South Dublin, Galway City, Galway County, Laois, Leitrim, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Sligo and Wexford.

In some of these counties Travellers live in horrific conditions while their accommodation needs are completely and blatantly ignored by the local authority.

All the while public representatives from the mainstream parties have openly used anti-Traveller sentiment to block the development of Traveller accommodation. The former Minister for Environment with responsibility for Traveller Accommodation, Phil Hogan wrote to members of his constituency stating they had nothing to be concerned about as Travellers would not be housed in his constituency. Donegal Fianna Fáil Councillor Sean McEniff stated, that Travellers should be “housed away from settled communities, there should be a community of themselves together”, subsequent to this a house which had been allocated to a Traveller family was burned to the ground before the family could move into it.

The rise of anti-Traveller racism among judges has also been alarming. District Court Judge, Seamus Hughes 2012 in a court hearing, referred to a Traveller man “like Neanderthal men abiding by the ‘laws of the jungle”.

By contrast, On the 8th July this year People Before Profit Councillors Brid Smith and Tina McVeigh protested outside Dublin City Hall along with the Irish Traveller Movement and locally-based Traveller organisations from across Dublin at the lack of an accommodation budget and the unsafe living conditions within Labre Park in Dublin where some families have been waiting up to 18 years for permanent accommodation and without water, sanitation or electricity for 14 of those years.

So while Minister Alan Kelly informs the Traveller community that fire services will be asked to lead a concentrated programme of risk management and fire prevention in communities most at risk, Travellers across the country continue to live in fear, with children and adults alike now afraid to sleep easy at night. This is a travesty and indictment of this government.

People before Profit call on this FG/Labour government to address this crisis in Traveller accommodation as an utmost emergency and reinstate the financial resources it had withdrawn from the Traveller accommodation programme without delay in order to provide safe, adequate and culturally appropriate accommodation for Travellers.

We also support the local and national Traveller organisations in their call for the establishment of a National Traveller Accommodation Agency to oversee all aspects of Traveller Accommodation provision and will work to advance this.

Travellers Rights are Human Rights and Travellers Lives Matter.

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author by homerpublication date Tue Oct 20, 2015 03:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Accommodation is one of the most critical issues for the Traveller community and is identified in the 2013-2020 Healthy Ireland Report as the most significant determinant on health.

All homeless people traveller or otherwise will have their health severely damaged by not having anywhere to live.

All homeless people should be equally considered in any housing initiatives and travellers should not get special treatment.

merely because they have extra value as a political football.

We need a comprehensive cost price social housing building program for all in need of a home.

Government employed house building teams in every county building cost price not for profit houses.

For profit housing solutions have failed the community and lined the pockets of the few for long enough, and their related bank borrowing and housing bubble crippled our economy and left us at the mercy of EU sharks

There is a better way to do this.

Housing, water and other essentials should not be left to profit driven capitalists to sort out.
It's like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse.

author by Mudsharkpublication date Tue Oct 20, 2015 17:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

We shouldnt put homeless and refugees above ordinary irish people who are struggling too living in cars etc, and on the street some in b & b's it could happen to anybody,why house someone who inflicts homelessness on themselves through their own doing through drugs and what not,when they will wreck any house given to them and turn it into a dung pile drug dealing den,full of heroin,and hopelessness,when you can give a house to a family or an ordinary irish person who will look after the house they are given,and take pride in it etc..

author by joe_publicpublication date Tue Oct 20, 2015 18:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

let me tell you a little story of something that happened in my neighbourhood,over 20 years ago,travellers were sent to live there,and stripped the houses of copper and all metals and wires and sold it on.they turned it into a hole in no time,they had horses excrement everywhere and the rubbish was all over the place,in turn attracting rats which i paid thousands to get rid of with pest control..just you be careful what you wish for...

author by Foreign Observerpublication date Wed Oct 21, 2015 16:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I presume that it is too much to expect the peoples of this good catholic nation to behave and act like Christians ?

author by joe_publicpublication date Wed Oct 21, 2015 21:23author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its all very well to act christian but there is taking the p*ss,and what do we do??turn the other cheek? if christianity of the dark ages,turned the other cheek , we wouldnt see a new generation of christians today in fact,we fought the muslims at the gates of vienna,and now christianity is all about turning the other cheek.....let me tell you this; it wont end well for the christians!

author by Foreign Observerpublication date Wed Oct 21, 2015 22:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Can we keep on topic please
Have concern over the lack of christian goodness that is not being shown to the devout Irish travellers of Ireland by their fellow so called christian citizens.

author by Podgepublication date Thu Oct 22, 2015 21:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes there is a stereo-typical view of Travellers which tarnishes the whole culture.
But sadly in my own experience it is well deserved.
In Letterkenny and the surrounding area we are periodically plagued by Travelers who arrive at intervals, set up in areas wherever they can cause the most hassle and then demand money in order to move on. The Guards can do nothing about this abysmal protection racket because if they do the Humans Rights Campaigners kick off. Politicians can not intervene for the same reason. So it is left to the people to put the money together to pay them enough to move on. And the longer they wait, the more mayhem they create. Theres been thefts, cars scratched, bricks thrown through windows, dogs poisoned, the things these people do to their fellow human beings just to make a bit of money is beyond contempt. Its hard to show Christian Charity to people who know nothing about it themselves.
I am not a bigoted person by any means but my own experience of Travelers over the years and those people around me have led me to be very wary of them.

author by joe_publicpublication date Fri Oct 23, 2015 09:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes i believe it,a lot of them cause mayhem wherever they go,thats not to say i met one or two nice travellers but most in my experience don't know the first thing about christianity or respect,its a two way street,and they just don't seem to get it...We all want something for free or think we are owed something,but reality and growing up in the end teaches us we have to WORK,and earn what we have,we don't get things like accomodation handed to us on a plate,free rubbish service etc...Why do they deserve special treatment?Just look at the way some of them act,tieing a horse up for over 12 hours a day,working it on the hard tarmac which their hooves or joints were not designed for,and when they are no use they shoot or stab or burn them alive....

Im all for travellers getting what they want,but within reason,if they dont show respect,we shouldnt be giving them anything or any concessions or benefit of the doubt in any way....

If there are any travellers reading this,all the settled community want is respect,not people throwing their weight around causing mayhem and intimidation all round...

author by Foreign Observerpublication date Fri Oct 23, 2015 10:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ten lives lost each of them as precious as mine or yours and the best that any can offer is pathetic whinging from those who ought to know better.
I am totally disgusted.

author by joe_publicpublication date Fri Oct 23, 2015 19:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So you are engaging in emotional blackmail,beacuse 10 people lost their lives in an accidental fire,we should all shut up and put up when travellers engage in intimidation tactics to extrapolate money from good people in disadvantaged areas??who are put up in some of the poorest social housing estates in ireland,where the government KNOW they won't ASSERT themselves..
I know one woman who said she wanted to slit her wrists as kids defecated on her doorstep and pissed in her letterbox nearly every day,her terrier went missing,and she went to the gardai,of course they had to find who done it,and she asked them to take a dna sample of the poo and the urine,they backed out of it and passed the buck on...In the end she had to be moved temporarily for her sanity,the travellers demanded money and then in the end moved on,but not without scars left on that community,there is a reason why people do not trust or engage with travellers,as terrible as that tragedy was,a lot of people have a hard time trusting travellers and should not be looked on in disgust or called bigots etc...The human rights angle of course will be overplayed here at the expense of reason and reality,no doubt...

author by punditpublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 00:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is certainly true that alot of people do not have kind things to say about travellers and alot of it comes from bad experiences people have had at one time in their live with them. The problem is that we never hear about the "good" or decent travellers that don't cause any problems and so they never gain from these positive experiences. Because they self identify so much, it has the effect of putting them all under the same banner when clearly there are going to be some bad apples in the lot that disportionately tarnish their reputation.

Due to their position in society whether that be the poverty of the services available and the huge social problems affecting them including alcohol and mental health -apparently the suicide rate is 7 times higher amongst travellers, these sort of problems can and do lead to violent and disturbing behaviour and not just in the traveller community but where ever it occurs. Now some might argue this could be a chicken and egg situation, but if we want to move beyond this then these problems have to be addressed and to do that requires money and resources and it is right at this point that people will object because they have little direct contact, and don't consider them deserving of it. If we get stuck in that loop we get stuck in the problem. It is well known that as the gap between the extremes of poverty and wealth are reduced, the overall stress levels in that society fall and life expectancies and well being go up for everybody -in other words by spending on the poorest, we all benefit. Contrast Ireland where you can generally walk the streets to place like South Africa where a huge amount is spent on security and most homes are more like prisons surrounded by high walls and barbed and razor wire. You don't even have "civil" freedom to walk your own streets and this all comes down to the extreme poverty that pervades the country.

Wealth is not just personnel, it is also at a societal level and to increase it is necessary to address the very bottom layers.

author by Sallypublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 10:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Settled people for the most part have no interaction with travelling people, unless individual travellers come to doors trying to hawk goods or to ask for financial help. Bar staff tend to be wary of groups of traveller customers who drink in their premises because of past perceived tendencies to drink too fast and fall under the influence of alcohol and become distinctively animated. The prima facie appearance of caravans and assorted containers on the grounds of official halting sites is another factor that makes settled people not wish to have any personal dealings. Around the country there are designated social welfare personnel, remedial teachers, nuns and benevolent Quaker individuals who get to know travellers, but such people are the exception. Most settled people feel uneasy about the travellers. The death of ten people in the recent fire disaster at a traveller site in Carrickmines has aroused public sympathy. It hasn't diluted pervasive social unease. The writers of opinion-editorial articles in newspapers for the most part don't have any personal interaction with travellers. Like most of us they politely pass them by.

author by old_posterpublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 19:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's not just superficial interactions , it's bitterly bad personal experiences as outlined by members of the public as per the one or two comments above , on the face of it , the travellers that do interact with us , only to get money out of us or to con us/burgle our homes or extort money from us, makes us very wary of them... Thats the real story behind the traveller claims of racism and discrimination and exclusion from pubs and hotels , and communities closing ranks etc.. A lot of them like to wrongly claim victim status in the face of accusations from members of the public about intimidation etc. And a lot of do gooders like to spin it into a social justice human rights issue, which to be quite frank i find very disingenous...As for people politely passing them by,what should they do engage with them and be the worse off for it?

author by joe_public - nonepublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 19:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Travellers are often encouraged by faux humanists like sally to engage in attaining fake victim status,regardless of the circumstances,where the aggressor is the eternal victim and can do no wrong...After all he was just ''hawking'',or ''looking for financial help and guidance'' from his settled peer your honor...Not intimidating or extorting money, no no sir i would do nothing of the sort mister,can you prove that i did,where is the evidence gard?well huh?

author by Sallypublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 22:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I didn't try to portray travellers as victims. I stated some obvious facts about the general public - the so-called settled community - feeling uneasy about travellers on account of perceptions of behaviour and living patterns. I haven't claimed to be a humanist or an apologist for travellers. Despite the recent outpouring of public shock at the fire disaster and the publication of op-ed articles in the print media castigating settler community attitudes it seems to me that public attitudes will remain unchanged in the medium term.

author by Foreign Observerpublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 23:24author address author phone Report this post to the editors

An excellent article can be found here

author by joe_publicpublication date Sat Oct 24, 2015 23:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

If anything the travellers themselves have condemned themselves to this traveller aparthied through their own and very often, criminal actions on the settled community,there is a REASON for all this distrust for travellers and there is a deeper reason why settled people and travellers do not mix... There is a lot more to it than meets the eye.... There is a reason why hotels are often reluctant to put them up, publicans reluctant to let them stay drinking till all hours,and a reason why communites close ranks when they get word that the travellers are coming to town to descend on them and quite often use intimidation tactics on the settled community. Yet the faux humanists,leftists and general lemming do gooders(along with the travellers at the forefront) are out to shout ''raaaacist'' and ''discriminaaation'',in the face of well founded opposition to them setting up shop nearby to terrorize the local community..... Which i find to be really very ,very, disingenous,if the shoe was on the other foot,and these lemming do gooders who live in dalkey or some pot smoking pro palestine beanie had some of the criminal elements of travellers on their doorstep defecating they would not be so quick to shout ''raaaacist'' and ''discriminaaaation''...
Just some food for thought there lads :-)

author by Foreign Observerpublication date Sun Oct 25, 2015 07:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Actually, I have some travellers coming to stay with me tomorrow, they will camp in the backyard as they always do and we shall a great old time together reminiscing over past times.
We shall play music and have a fire and there will be no begrudgers around to spoil our happiness, they come to us twice a year bringing gifts for their boss man.

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