Wednesday, 20 January 2016
Topical Issue Debate
I also want to raise the issue of the eviction of the 23 Traveller families from Woodland Park in County Louth. It is incredible that the first response of the State to Travelling people since the tragedy at Carrickmines is to use that event to evict 23 families including women and children from a site on which they have been living. Just so we are clear, this was a halting site in the past. It is not as if it did not function in that capacity before. As we know, there is a housing emergency which even the Government is beginning to acknowledge. For Travellers it is doubly difficult, even if they want to access private rented accommodation.
It was thought necessary for the Garda public order unit to arrive on-site on Friday, only two days after the eviction notice had been posted up for those families. It is very unusual to see a council moving so swiftly to do anything. The council did not feel it necessary to send a delegation go to the site, engage with the Travellers or find out what health and safety issues there might be and how they might be rectified. There is no necessity to evict these families from the site to make it safe. All of these safety issues could have been addressed while leaving those families in situ, and that was the stated aim of the report that followed Carrickmines. The directive said that nothing in this process is intended to be used to address broader Traveller accommodation issues in a negative way. Instead, these families are being pushed into the settled community against their wishes. That is not meant to be a policy. It involves breaking up extended Traveller families and so on.
That was the action of Louth County Council on the coldest night of the year. The Minister of State should condemn it. The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly has been asked to intervene by Pavee Point and should do so.