Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Topical Issue Debate
Tá mé buíoch as an seans caint ar an ábhar tábhachtach seo. Last Friday and with only 48 hours' notice, Louth County Council began a process to evict 23 Traveller families from a halting site at Woodland Park in Dundalk. This was a shameful action. Those evicted included at least 22 children, some of them babies only days old, and two pregnant women. The distress and trauma caused to these families, especially to the children, was unnecessary and unreasonable. This was done without consultation by councillors.
I raised the issue of the halting site with the chief executive of the council in November. I was on the site in December and made representations during Christmas week to the council and other agencies. The basis on which the council said that it carried out these evictions was a fire safety inspection. However, Louth County Council, like all other councils, was given a programme to review fire safety and Traveller accommodation last December. This was initiated after the tragic fire at the halting site in Carrickmines which saw ten people including five children die. The report is very clear that nothing in this fire safety review process is intended to be used to address the broader Traveller accommodation issues in a negative way. However, this is exactly what the council is doing.
The last five families at the Woodland Park site are being evicted today and tomorrow. Some of the women, including at least one pregnant woman, have had to sleep in a car for the past three nights. There is already a homelessness crisis in County Louth, with 5,000 people on the housing waiting list. The chief executive's action has added to this crisis. I ask the Minister of State to intervene and that he urgently agrees to release the necessary funding to upgrade the Woodland Park site. This is the most cost-effective and common sense resolution to the issue.