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20/10/2021

Action long overdue on Traveller accommodation

It’s about holding the State to account- Senator Flynn

 Action long overdue on Traveller accommodation

Senator Eileen Flynn

Independent Senator Eileen Flynn has welcomed the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) equality reviews examining local authority provision of Traveller accommodation, but said the time for reports should be over – it’s time for appropriate action.

“We can’t allow this to continue. It is important to have this research, but community development workers on the ground already know this.”

The equality reviews came in response to strong evidence of local authorities consistently failing to spend available Traveller-specific accommodation funding.

Between 2008 and 2018, of €168.8 million allocated to authorities for Traveller-specific accommodation, just two-thirds, or €110.6 million, was drawn down.

The IHREC said there is evidence that the underspend is being driven by structural issues and an inadequate process for identifying housing needs. They also said that Travellers had little participation in management of their sites in many local authority areas.

Senator Flynn noted the important IHREC report comes shortly after a devastating report from the Ombudsman for Children, No End in Site, that detailed appalling living conditions at a Traveller halting site.

“We’re seeing these reports constantly and very little is being done about them. It’s not working, it hasn’t worked and the Traveller community has been failed and failed and failed. I have no doubt if we don’t have appropriate action we’re going to continue to be failed again as a community.

“And the Traveller community is not just failed in accommodation, because not having suitable accommodation undermines you in all other areas of your life. There is a ripple effect on a family, on the community, on the extended family and on generations and generations,” she said.

The Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community, which Senator Flynn chairs, will bring in the IHREC to its meeting next week to discuss the equality reviews.

Last year, in the Seanad, Senator Flynn had called on Minister Peter Burke to implement the recommendations of the Expert Report on Traveller Accommodation and establish a Traveller Accommodation Authority as a priority.

“Travellers are an important part of Irish society as a community and we should be treated as an important part of Irish society. All we’re asking for is respect, and to live in dignity and in Traveller-appropriate accommodation. How hard is that? Because the resources are there.”

The senator said she wanted to hear a response from Government to the IHREC report, saying: “I’m calling on the Government to make a statement to the Traveller community after decades of failure.” She said it may also be time for cases involving continued failures to protect the rights of the Traveller community to be brought before the courts.

Senator Flynn added it’s about holding the State to account.

"The Government needs to tell us what their plans are, if any, for appropriate action, and implementation of the expert report.

“Are they going to listen to the Traveller community? We have the answers,” she said.

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