Thursday, 3 June 2021
Traveller Accommodation: Statements
Paul Donnelly (Dublin West, Sinn Fein)
I will raise a number of issues relating to Traveller accommodation in my constituency of Dublin West. Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, I visited a substantial number of Traveller accommodation areas in and around the Dublin West area. Sadly, I was not surprised by what I saw because I have worked with the Travelling community for a number of years in Coolock and Darndale. None of the sites I visited could, in anyone's language, be described as acceptable.
I acknowledge the significant work by Fingal County Council's housing department in putting together the Traveller accommodation programme with representatives of the Travelling community. The proof will be if that programme is completely actioned. Will the situation for Travellers be the same in 2024? From speaking to the Travelling community right across Dublin West, there is scepticism that accommodation will be provided for them.
I acknowledge Ms Anne Marie Farrelly and Ms Colette Spears from the Blanchardstown Traveller Development Group who have been supportive in helping me and my colleague, Councillor Breda Hanaphy. We visited as many sites as we could and I look forward to visiting the number of sites we did not get to before Covid-19 hit us.
Every single community I visited had very severe infrastructural, housing and facility deficits. Some were minor and others were the most dangerous situations I have seen. The only phrase I can use to convey fully how dangerous they where is, "Carrickmines waiting to happen". The worst was the result of severe overcrowding on the site, with caravans cheek by jowl, metres from each other, with extremely dangerous ESB connections. The issues we need to address are overcrowding.
One site at St. Brigid's Lawn has seen the family outgrow the site, leading to such severe overcrowding. This site was semi-rural with very little housing 27 years ago. It is now prime development land within the Kellystown local area plan. There is a plan to increase this estate by only one bay. The entire sewerage system and electricity system are in dire need of replacement, and this needs to happen really quickly. After 27 years, surely this family deserves more than one unit. Thousands of units are planned in Kellystown. The strategy for this family needs to reflect the housing needs not just of the family now but into the future.
I believe all of us - members of the Travelling community, the council, public representatives and local communities - must and should work together to build a new future and a new, inclusive community. It is not one group or organisation. This is about what type of society we aspire to be. As has been mentioned earlier, it is incredibly important that we come together and challenge those who use racism within our society to block any attempt to build Traveller accommodation in Dublin 15 or in any place within the State.