Thursday, 3 June 2021
Traveller Accommodation: Statements
Dessie Ellis (Dublin North West, Sinn Fein)
There has been a crisis in housing for many years. This is something I have spoken about and raised on many occasions in the Dáil. For many in the general community, waiting to be allocated an apartment or house has often proved to be both frustrating and demoralising as they linger on housing waiting lists for many years before they are even close to being considered for accommodation. How much more difficult and frustrating must it be for those in the Traveller community looking for accommodation?
The Traveller community faces discrimination across many areas of society on a daily basis. Members of the Traveller community are, for the most part, accommodated in what are termed as halting sites. Some of these sites are inadequate and are not suitable places in which to raise a family as they are often overcrowded and devoid of basic facilities.
In my constituency, for example, there are a number of Traveller sites, such as St. Margaret's Park halting site in Ballymun, which is severely overcrowded. A plan was put in place more than five years ago for this site, which would have increased the amount of housing on the site but it has never been implemented. There was a considerable amount of consultation with representatives of the Traveller community, local residents, Dublin City Council and local politicians, including myself. The Villa Park site in Finglas is also overcrowded. Three additional bungalows were promised to be built a number of years ago on the sight to help alleviate the overcrowding but they have yet to be built. At St. Joseph's Park site on Dunsink Lane, there are 14 families living in poor conditions and for a long period they did not even have proper access to clean water and basic sanitary facilities. The bungalow site on Ratoath Road, where up to 15 people are resident, has been without running water for over a month. Fingal County Council has been supplying this site with water tanks. This situation is simply not tenable and poses a serious health risk, particularly in light of the pandemic. I am aware that the majority of residents at the site have also had Covid. I have written to both the Minister of State and Irish Water and I have spoken to the HSE on the matter. The director of public health for the area has written to the HSE expressing her concerns and asking that a water supply be provided for the residents as there are children and elderly residents on this site who have no water for toilets, bathing, drinking and hand hygiene etc. This poses a serious and ongoing risk to public health.
Additionally, local authorities need to be held to account for any underspend in funding for Traveller specific projects. We need an oversight body to ensure such moneys are spent and penalties should be imposed on those local authorities that fail to do so. I would also ask that additional funding be provided for the provision of Traveller accommodation as the current spend is not sufficient to meet the ever-increasing demands for housing.