- By Paula Geraghty
It’s hard to believe that 100 years after the 1913 Lockout that people in Ireland could be living without basic facilities such as running water and electricity – but it’s true. Hundreds gathered at Fingal County Council offices on Monday 25th November to protest at the inhuman conditions that Travellers are forced to live in.
“We have been living on the site for 15 years with no electricity, proper toilet or shower facilities, in that time it has been very difficult trying to feed the babies born, with the light of a candle in very cold conditions” Geraldine McDonnell a resident of a Traveller halting site on Dunsink Lane, Dublin told a protest held by National and local Traveller organisations outside the offices of Fingal County Council, Dublin to highlight the current national crisis in Traveller accommodation. Geraldine described how “we use a portable toilet and our water supply for 14 families comes from one slow dripping outside tap which has to be boiled before use”.
National and local politicians gathered in unity to express their solidarity. Joe Higgins, Socialist Party TD for the area insisted that it was crucial that workers and Travellers unite and organise together to ensure a decent standard of living for all. Community activist Rita Fagan, highlighted the need for the settled community to stand with Travellers as housing was a basic right that affects us all. Dr John Bisset, a housing campaigner said that the problem was state racism and that it just had to stop.
The protest heard how for the last 5 years over €50 million allocated by the Department of Environment and Local Government to provide for Traveller accommodation was under spent by local authorities. 7.5 million was underspent by Fingal County Council when over 3,600 Travellers or 11% of the traveller population in the Republic are officially homeless, in some instances families sharing accommodation with grandparents, living in unserviced and on official halting sites in grossly over crowded conditions with upwards of 4 families sharing one outside toilet.
Travellers came from all over Ireland including West Cork, Donegal, Galway, Offaly and Wexford to show support. Geraldine McDonnell described how much their presence meant in giving hope and reducing the sense of isolation and hopelessness.
The protest was held to coincide with a Fingal Council meeting of Housing Policy and also highlighted the overall failure of local authorities to meet their targets for provision of Traveller accommodation and the unprecedented cuts made to Traveller accommodation budgets which have worsened Travellers living conditions.
Colette Spears National Accommodation Officer with the Irish Traveller Movement said: “We have worked with successive Ministers during times of unprecedented prosperity and subsequent recession and in that time there has been a consistent lack of adequate provision of Traveller accommodation. We have patiently committed to a National consultation process with Travellers engaged in every county on Local Accommodation Committees for over 13 years as required by the Act and yet this partnership approach has failed them. The Irish Traveller Movement recommends that 1) A budget be ring-fenced for Traveller accommodation until delivery of accommodation has met the need, 2) that in the interim the Minister invest himself with those powers of performance under section 111 of the Housing Act in this event of non-compliance and 3) that a specific housing agency is set up to oversee the delivery of a national Traveller accommodation strategy.”
Please watch this video report for more information.
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