Thursday, 3 June 2021
Traveller Accommodation: Statements
Denise Mitchell (Dublin Bay North, Sinn Fein)
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this topic. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community and we engaged with Pavee Point, the Irish Traveller Movement and the National Traveller Women's Forum on Tuesday. The experiences recounted by those organisations are concerning, but not surprising. Traveller accommodation is something that politicians do not get right. We heard promises of a sea change in 2015 after the tragic fire at the halting site in Carrickmines. At the time, we were told that the State would do more and that work was ongoing to make halting sites safe. This has not happened and that is a disgrace.
Most councils are not drawing down the budgets available for providing appropriate accommodation. Why? Either the Minister of State must become solely responsible for delivering Traveller accommodation or we need a State body to be given the power. The recent report from the Ombudsman for Children's Office, which found that Cork City Council was violating the rights of Traveller children, is shocking. The report was scathing of the failures of that council.
The council left children in what were described as filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, unsafe, cold and damp living conditions. Would this happen to any other section of Irish society? The 32 recommendations of the independent expert review of Traveller accommodation published in 2019 by the then Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government must be implemented now. There can be no more delays.
For far too long we have discriminated against Travellers across all areas of society including employment, education and, in particular, accommodation. We have failed to deliver the necessary supports to deal with these and related issues. I was very proud to be in the Chamber on the day the former Taoiseach Enda Kenny got to his feet and recognised Travellers as an ethnic minority. The objective of that recognition was to provide rights and protections that had been previously denied to Travellers but that has not happened. We are still failing Travellers and all in this House are agreed that this must change.