Thursday, 3 June 2021
Traveller Accommodation: Statements
Joan Collins (Dublin South Central, Independents 4 Change)
According to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, based on its latest available data which are from 2019, there were 10,809 families from the Travelling community throughout the country in need of accommodation. Given other Travellers may have no engagement with a local authority or do not self-identify for the purposes of data collection, the true population is likely much larger. Many of these people are living in inadequate, unsafe and impermanent conditions. These conditions erode their health, life expectancy, education and employment opportunities and are well below the basic human rights standard. Those rights to health, life expectancy and education cannot be properly vindicated unless the human right to housing is vindicated. An additional disadvantage is that only a very small proportion of social housing and private rental stock consists of large dwellings suitable to accommodating larger families. The average family size is 5.3 according to the 2016 census. There are 2,800 Travellers living on unofficial sites. It is outrageous. The oversight of Traveller accommodation delivery rests with the Traveller accommodation unit of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage so it is this Government's responsibility.
What do we need to do? We must repeal section 24 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2002 prohibiting nomadism, a core element of Traveller culture and their way of life. We must have provision of a network of transient halting sites in each local authority area for short stays that would be exempted under section 4 of the Planning and Development Act 2000. We need Traveller-specific accommodation to be provided under the single-stage planning process. We call for an amendment to Part 8 of the Planning and Development (Housing) and Residential Tenancies Act 2016 to prevent political interference in Traveller-specific developments. There is a need for full and speedy implementation of the 32 recommendations from the Traveller accommodation expert group. We also need an oversight body to ensure those 32 recommendations are implemented. I was at the committee on key issues affecting the Travelling community on Tuesday. Members called for an independent national Traveller accommodation authority with the authority to plan and implement housing and accommodation for the Travelling community. It must happen.