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Group condemns ‘inhumane’ conditions

Wednesday, 19th September, 2018 4:49pm

A Traveller organisation has called on local authorities to address what it says are “shameful” living conditions for some of its community.

The claims came at the launch of a report by Travellers of North Cork (TNC) this week, where accommodation concerns of the Travelling community were raised.

The TNC was critical of Cork County Council for not engaging with Travellers over the issue of housing, despite having presented a Traveller Accommodation Rights Charter to the Council in May 2017.

The new report was based off of two surveys conducted by the TNC in November 2016 and this year, of 95 and 77 Traveller families respectively.

The report found that the number of non-homeowner families surveyed who had received a written housing offer had fallen from 11 per cent in 2016 to just four per cent in 2018. It also found that number of families who felt their accommodation was unsuitable had risen from 67 per cent to 76 per cent. Four in ten said overcrowding was an issue, 21 per cent said cold and damp, while five per cent were homeless families living together in a single hotel room.

Both the 2016 and 2018 surveys found that 84 per cent of Travellers were not satisfied with the Council or landlord’s response to reported problems with their accommodation.

The conference heard personal testimonies from Travellers in Cork, including one family living in a car and another in Ballydineen Halting Site whose children had to stay indoors due to the close proximity of the site to a main road. Conditions reported included rodent infestations, dangerous exposed wire and no toilet access other than portaloos.

Speaking about the report, Chairperson of the TNC Anita Toner said: “What we are seeing here is a violation of housing rights that is actually posing threats to the health and safety of people. That is why we are working with Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and linking up with other organisations.

“These are not impossible things to deliver, nobody is asking for mansions; all people want is a roof over their heads for their family.”

Professor Colin Harvey, School of Law at Queen's University Belfast, called the situation in North Cork “shameful”, “inhumane” and “simply unacceptable”, saying urgent action was needed.

Dug Cubie from the Department of Law in UCC added that Traveller accommodation rights had be “enforced on the ground.”

A statement from Cork County Council said: “Countywide traveller interests are discussed at meetings of the Cork County Council’s Local Traveller Accommodation Consultative Committee (LTACC). Once the Council has had the opportunity to review the report, a detailed response to the issues raised will be prepared and discussed at the next LTACC meeting.”

The statement also said approval had been granted by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government for the development of the Ballydineen site, and that design of the scheme way underway.

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