Councillors clash over Traveller accommodation at first Council meeting

Kathleen Ward A Traveller's Life

Traveller Accommodation was raised at the first ordinary meeting of Galway City Council yesterday, with one Fianna Fáil councillor asking where members of the community have been for the past couple of years.

Cllr Crowe also questioned whether there was any guarantee that when the committee is set up representatives of the community would “come back to the table and work with us”.

He was referring to the fact that in May 2017, the Galway Traveller Movement (GTM) withdrew from the Traveller Accommodation Committee.

The GTM withdrew from the committee citing “frustration” directed at the lack of provision of new Traveller Accommodation in Galway City over the last 20 years.

However, Councillor Martina O’Connor of the Green Party expressed her disappointment with the sentiments of other Councillors in the chamber.

“I’ve heard language which if I was a Traveller would convince me not to turn up,” she said.

Fine Gael Councillor Frank Fahy asked why a discussion about the Traveller Accommodation Committee wasn’t on the agenda with the Chief Executive replying that he had discretion to raise the issue given the fact only 5/6 seats had been filled on the committee.

Fine Gael’s Eddie Hoare noted that members of the “voting pact were very quick to apply for other committees”.

Eventually, Frank Fahy was nominated to the committee and was subsequently approved to fill the last vacant position.

This means the committee is comprised of Cllr. Martina O’Connor (Green Party), Cllr. Owen Hanley (Social Democrats), Cllr. Declan McDonnell (Independent), Cllr. Noel Larkin (Indepedent), John Connolly (Fianna Fáil) and Frank Fahy (Fine Gael).

The committee will have a tough job on their hands as a recent report into Traveller accommodation in Galway found that living conditions were in breach of human rights standards.

The 2019 Traveller Homes Now Monitoring and Progress Report labelled living conditions as “deplorable and substandard”.

The report described current living spaces as being riddled with rat infestation, poor sanitation, severe structural issues, problems with heat and electricity supply and no facilities for children.

The report was highly critical of the City Council and claimed it was in breach of legal obligations to provide accommodation.