herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Councils must have mandatory targets for Traveller accommodation'

Green Cllr Malcolm Noonan
Green Cllr Malcolm Noonan

As vigils took place across the country to mark the Carrickmines fire anniversary, Housing Minister Simon Coveney is facing an appeal to set mandatory targets for councils to provide Traveller accommodation.

The Green Party's spokesperson on local government, Malcolm Noonan said that "little has changed" a year on from the fire in relation to Traveller accommodation.

He said local authorities, who have responsibility for delivering Traveller accommodation, should face mandatory targets for housing Traveller families. The targets should include measures to ensure fire safety compliance and proper access to water and sanitation.

"We recognise the scale of the challenge involved here, but Government and local authorities are failing the Traveller community. Very often, political interference is preventing the allocation of housing," Councillor Noonan said.

"This must be stopped and a programme put in place that sets mandatory targets for construction of dwellings and group housing schemes.

Powers

"We are not in favour of stripping more powers away from local government... liaison with families and the wider community is essential.

"What is most worrying in the midst of a housing crisis is that more Traveller families are finding themselves homeless, with 89 more families living on roadsides since 2014," he said.

"Unless all agencies work together to address these inequalities, we will never break the now endemic cycle of poverty that permeates life for Travellers in Ireland. If Carrickmines wasn't the wake-up call, I wonder what it will take," the councillor added.

Local authorities currently provide Traveller accommodation through Traveller Accommodation Programmes.

A "mid-term review" of this is under way by each local authority.

A spokesperson for the Minister last night said: "It would be premature to pre-empt the outcome of this process, which will provide a detailed analysis and help inform future policy direction."

In relation to fire safety, the department pointed to an audit carried out nationwide following the fire which identified fire-safety failings on more than 80pc of sites - many of which have been addressed.

Services

"All approved halting sites (temporary and permanent) have access to services such as water, sanitation and electricity," the spokesperson added.

When asked if the minister would consider making it a requirement for local authorities to draw down all available funding for providing Traveller accommodation, the department said the funding allocation and spend is monitored closely by the department.

"If, during the year, a difficulty is identified in drawing down the funding allocated for a particular scheme, it is then be reallocated to another scheme," the spokesperson said.

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