Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Equality Fiona O’Loughlin TD has said it is deeply worrying and shameful that many local authorities have failed to spend their full allocations for Traveller accommodation, especially in light of the fire safety dangers the community is exposed to.
Deputy O’Loughlin made the comments after a leaked report showed that local authorities failed to spend €1.2m earmarked for Traveller housing provision and improvements. This represents 22% of the overall budget allocation.
Deputy O’Loughlin said, “In light of all the talk we had since the Carrickmines tragedy in October 2015, it is frankly appalling that local authorities have not used the funding they have been allocated to improve accommodation standards for Travellers. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government allocated an additional €1.2m last year for improving fire safety standards for Traveller community specific accommodation. This additional allocation came after the Government came under pressure from Fianna Fáil and other parties. However it now transpires this additional money remains unspent.
“Ten people in all, including five children, lost their lives in the Carrickmines fire that engulfed a cabin and caravan on a temporary halting site. The families had been living on the site on Glenamuck Road in south Dublin for eight years while they waited for a permanent site elsewhere. Had the families been sleeping in higher quality accommodation then the likelihood is that lives would have been saved. The materials used in the accommodation were not fire-proof and did not adhere to basic fire safety standards.
“Bad and all as the accommodation issues are for the settled community, they are far worse for the Traveller community. Year after year the local authorities send funding for Traveller accommodation back to the department. Some local authorities have generally, right across the system, failed to deal in a fair and humane way with the Traveller housing issue.
“In the aftermath of Carrickmines, 95% of halting sites were reviewed by fire safety authorities who found major issues across the board, including the absence of fire and carbon monoxide alarms, risky electrical cord connections between dwellings and the serious dangers posed by the layout of units.
“While Minister Coveney likes to claim that failures to progress with construction of more secure Traveller accommodation is the fault of local authorities alone, it is his roll to ensure that local authorities act within the law as outlined in the Traveller Accommodation Act.
“For many years, the Traveller Community has been calling for a housing watchdog and coordinating agency responsible for Traveller housing. We support the setting up of a Traveller housing agency, the majority of whose board would be Travellers, to provide suitable accommodation for the Traveller Community throughout this State.”