herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Travellers group blast city council over plans for illegal sites evictions

Pavee Point’s Martin Collins called evictions ‘inhumane’. Photo: Tom Burke
Pavee Point’s Martin Collins called evictions ‘inhumane’. Photo: Tom Burke

A Traveller rights' organisation said it is "seriously concerned" over a plan by Dublin City Council (DCC) to crack down on Travellers living on illegal sites.

A recently published tender document outlines that DCC is looking to hire a seven-day-a-week security company to help it with evictions of Travellers living illegally on private land.

It is also requesting additional help with seizing, euthanising and rehousing horses.

The plan is being organised under a proposed multi-party framework agreement between all of Dublin's local authorities regarding the provision of security services in respect of Traveller accommodation units.

Removal

The tender document reads: "There may be requirements for the provision of Security Personnel seven days per week including seasonal/public and bank holidays in respect of the following tasks; serving notices and other correspondence, evictions from houses/sites to include illegally occupied lands or sites, removal of caravans and mobile homes and other general requirements."

It also acknowledges that from time to time there may be a requirement for security assistance in respect of "seizing horses, stabling horses, veterinary care, marking sheet, microchipping, putting down/knackery/disposal, rehoming of horses, accompanying animal welfare operatives in the process of seizing and controlling of animals".

A spokesperson for DCC told the Herald it only seizes horses where they are a danger to the public.

"We are not looking for vets to assist in putting them down. Every effort is made to rehome horses where possible," the spokesperson said.

Director of Traveller rights organisation Pavee Point, Martin Collins, told the Herald that the emphasis on "evictions from houses/sites" and "removal of caravans and mobile homes" is a "serious cause" for concern.

"Based on a cursory look at the tender document, we would expect that any tenders by Dublin's four councils would comply with their equality and human rights obligations," he said.

"We will refer these tender documents to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to include in its equality review on the provision of Traveller accommodation, announced just last week.

"We would also suggest that no tender be agreed until we know the outcome of the current Independent Expert Review of the 1998 Traveller Accommodation Act is made known. Twenty years of failed accommodation policies has resulted in this crisis for Travellers. There has been an underspend of €55m on Traveller accommodation since 2000.

"In this context, evictions are inhumane."

Mr Collins added that ongoing evictions by local authorities and other public landowners are causing Travellers unnecessary hardship and suffering.

"Travellers, who make up just 1pc of the overall population, make up 9pc of the homeless population. We know the current Traveller accommodation framework is not working," he said.

Punishment

"It is not fair to punish individual Traveller families, who are just trying to survive, for the failures of the State and general society overall."

The Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness recommended a ban on Traveller evictions back in 2016.

"No Travellers should be evicted from a Traveller-specific site until alternative accommodation is provided," it said.

In June 2015, six international organisations also called for a ban and highlighted the human cost of evictions.

"Local authorities need to find sustainable solutions to the housing or accommodation problems many Roma and Travellers face, and avoid evictions," the statement said.

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