Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 12 October 2021
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning and Local Government
Traveller Accommodation: Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage
I thank the Minister of State for attending. He is in a difficult position, having been in post for one year, and I think everybody recognises that. However, it is the job of these joint committees - I am a member of the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community - to point out what the issues are on behalf of the Traveller community, members of which would say something similar if they were here. It is important to note that members of that committee have undergone training on the cultural aspects, which is important. It is unfortunate that Senator Flynn is on maternity leave. This points to one of the issues I was going to raise - I have raised it previously at the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community - that is, a query as to how many Travellers are in the Department. The Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community compiled a report on employment in the Traveller community, and this was one of the issues that came to light, not specifically in respect of the Minister of State's Department but just as to what we can do. This is not pointing at one Department but, because the Minister of State is here, I will highlight that we need to do better in the public sector in ensuring, first, that that kind of discrimination is not there and that we are doing something proactive in order to make sure we have different groupings represented because people need to be in the room when the decisions are being made.
My second point is about the AHBs. We had Cena before us last week, which I think most committee members would feel was very impressive in being an AHB specifically for the Traveller community, backed by the Traveller community. I would love to know if there is funding going into that Traveller-specific role AHBs can play. This has been raised numerous times here. We cannot just turn our backs on the kinds of lives children are leading. It is not just a matter of the squalor in which many are living but also the fact that only 8% of Travellers finish school, with 1% in third level. What the report of the Ombudsman for Children has shown is that the type of accommodation in which children are living is impacting that and their future prospects. We have to get this right. I believe the Minister of State wants to get it right. I believe that all the things in Housing for All show that that is a reality. However, we need to be open to all the questioning and to be transparent along the way in order to continue that level of trust, to rebuild it or even just to start it. Having come from Galway City Council, I can tell the Minister of State it just has not been there. The council has drawn down funding for the first time in a long time - I think all local authorities drew it down last year - but it is nowhere near enough.