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Travellers 'often victims of housing crisis'

Published 11/10/2015

Fire crews at a halting in Carrickmines, south of Dublin where 10 people are believed to have died in a fire at a traveller site
Fire crews at a halting in Carrickmines, south of Dublin where 10 people are believed to have died in a fire at a traveller site

Some travellers have been forced to live in overcrowded and dangerous situations due to a housing crisis, representatives have claimed.

They are a minority who have been in Ireland for centuries, according to the Irish Traveller Movement (ITM), and experience high levels of prejudice and exclusion.

There are an estimated 25,000 travellers in the country, while others have gone to Great Britain.

In the past, advocates claim, they had to live in insanitary conditions leading to ongoing health problems but the Government has made efforts to improve matters and funded organisations to protect their rights to education and other aspects of life.

The ITM said: "Many have to endure living in intolerable conditions, with approximately one third having to live without access to the basic facilities of sanitation, water and electricity. This leads to ongoing health problems among the traveller community."

The cause of Saturday's blaze is under investigation and there is no suggestion at this stage that intolerable conditions may have played a part.

The nomadic ways of the travellers is an important source of identity b ut the ITM has said more should be done to support them.

Irish Environment Minister Alan Kelly said: "The travelling communities own representative groups have been liaising with the local services to assist in any way they can. The Civil Defence service is assisting the co-ordinated effort to deal with the aftermath of this terrible situation.

"At national level, my own department's co-ordination arrangements have been activated to liaise with and support the local response.

"As minister with responsibility for community, my department will be supporting the traveller community, in whatever way it can, over the coming very difficult days."

Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre has commended firefighters for putting their lives on the line to rescue people.

But co-director Ronnie Fay claimed: " Pavee Point is concerned that many traveller families throughout Ireland are being forced to live in overcrowded and dangerous situations due to the impact of the housing crisis. Travellers are often the hidden victims of the housing crisis.

"The difficulties in accessing the private rented sector are exacerbated for many travellers who continue to experience widespread discrimination and find it nigh on impossible to rent from private landlords.

"This is in addition to the cuts made by the Government to traveller accommodation under the guise of austerity measures with the budget reduced from 40 million euro in 2008 to 4 million euro in 2013.

"We call on the Government to reinvest in travellers and ameliorate the savage cuts that were imposed during austerity."

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