Programme to tackle Traveller accommodation crisis approved by Council

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Galway City Council has voted to unanimously approve and adopt a programme which aims to provide high quality Traveller accommodation over the next five years.

The Traveller Accommodation Programme, which will stem from 2019-2024, contains targets for the provision of accommodation.

These targets are designed to ease the rampant levels of homelessness in the Traveller community.

Design outline of Culturally Appropriate Accommodation.

The programme will provide 60 social housing allocations while supporting an additional 100 Traveller families under the Housing Assistance Payment up to 2024.

In addition, it is estimated that 30 families will be housed in standard Approved Housing Body accommodation over the lifetime of the plan.

Further accommodation needs of the Traveller community will be met through the addition of 2 group housing schemes that look to accommodate 10 families.

The programme has committed to progress the construction of four new culturally appropriate Traveller accommodation schemes which should hold 25 families.

When it comes to the provision of permanent residential halting sites, the programme outlines that there are no new halting sites being proposed in the City.

Requests for halting site accommodation will be decided as vacancies arise with seven casual allocations being anticipated up to 2024.

After the presentation of the programme, Independent Councillor Donal Lyons declared that he has always believed that the integration of the Traveller community into ordinary housing is beneficial.

Cllr. Lyons dismissed the idea of halting sites stating that “all we are doing with halting sites is kicking the can down the road”.

Green Party Councillor Martina O’Connor praised the “positive plans” contained in the Traveller accommodation report.

Cllr. O’Connor illustrated her concerns with urgent ongoing humanitarian issues regarding Traveller accommodation around the City and called for specific solutions to issues like rat infestations.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Alan Cheevers stated he was “alarmed” at the conditions Travellers were exposed to in the halting site in Doughiska.

Cllr. Cheevers mentioned the land at the back of Fana Glas which has become riddled with illegal dumping.

John McMahon agreed with Cllr. Cheevers that the halting site in Doughiska was in need of refurbishment.

The City East Councillor was assured that whatever will be designed for Fana Glas will be done to prevent dumping and ensure integration.

Independent Councillor Colette Connolly declared that the City Council has “failed” Travellers in Galway City.

She added that “We have let Travellers down and we have let the people down”.

Cllr. Connolly voiced her opposition to group housing schemes. She maintained that she has talked to people who have said they have been a failure.

The City Central Councillor further questioned why there is no provision for additional halting sites in the programme.

John McMahon disagreed with Cllr. Connolly’s assessment that they have failed Travellers in Galway.

He assured her that the decision to not mae provision for any more halting sites was made following consultations with Travellers.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Peter Keane asked what was being done about the Cúl Trá halting site in Salthill.

Cllr. Keane labelled the site as a “time bomb” and a Carrickmines waiting to happen.

The Fianna Fáil Councillor also referenced the fact that lower Salthill was exposed to caravans out on the road.

He stated that the level of engagement by the Traveller community was off the scale terrible.

Cllr. Keane was informed that the residents of Cúl Trá were meeting the Diocese on Wednesday and have sought an extension to seek alternative accommodation.

Green Party Councillor Pauline O’Reilly uttered her disapproval of the unrestrained human rights violations facing Travellers in Galway while specifically mentioning the “situation children are living in”.

John McMahon spoke in relation to human rights and promised that a number of principles would be operative.

He mentioned that the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission issued a communication requesting each Local Authority to provide details on the amount of money spent on Traveller accommodation.

Fine Gael  Councillor Frank Fahy asked if there was any proposal to provide a footpath between the Carrowbrowne halting site and the shop in Ballindooley.

Cllr. Fahy was “amazed someone hasn’t been killed” and was reassured that a footpath was something that was being looked into.