Belfast Telegraph

Ireland ‘should act against local authorities which fail to spend on Travellers’

The housing crisis and discrimination against migrants created enormous challenges for vulnerable communities like Travellers, a report said.

Ireland should act against local authorities which fail to spend money intended for Travellers accommodation, A European anti-racism watchdog urged (Niall Carson/PA).
Ireland should act against local authorities which fail to spend money intended for Travellers accommodation, A European anti-racism watchdog urged (Niall Carson/PA).

Ireland should act against local authorities which fail to spend money intended for Travellers accommodation, A European anti-racism watchdog urged.

The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) said the severe housing shortage, high rent and discrimination against migrants created enormous challenges for vulnerable communities.

Most councils have consistently failed to provide adequate and culturally-appropriate accommodation, the Strasbourg-based body added.

The report said: “ECRI is shocked that the amount of 4.1 million euros of available money was returned unspent, while many Travellers continue to live in squalor and deprivation.”

ECRI has been informed that prejudice and opposition from local residents to providing halting sites has translated into lack of political will at the local level to resolve the accommodation needs of Travellers ECRI

It recommended Ireland impose sanctions on local authorities for failure to spend funding allocated for Traveller accommodation or transfer responsibility to a central housing commission.

In 2017, out of an overall budget of nine million euros allocated by the Department of Housing to invest in building and upgrading Traveller-specific accommodation, only 4.8 million euros were drawn down.

Seven local authorities drew down the entire amount they were allocated, while nine councils did not invest anything in accommodation.

The report added: “ECRI has been informed that prejudice and opposition from local residents to providing halting sites has translated into lack of political will at the local level to resolve the accommodation needs of Travellers.

“As there is no provision for sanctions, there is no accountability for under-delivery.”

ECRI also said hate speech involving verbal abuse in public places was quite common in Ireland, and there was an undercurrent of low-level racist violence which is not adequately recorded or addressed.

There are no provisions in Irish criminal law defining common offences of a racist or homo/transphobic nature as specific offences, nor is racist or other hateful motivation considered an aggravating circumstance, the review added.

It said the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act is seldom used and is particularly ineffectual in combating online hate speech.

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In October 2015, a fire at a halting site in Carrickmines in south County Dublin killed 10 travellers including a young pregnant mother (Brian Lawless/PA)

In October 2015, a fire at a halting site in Carrickmines in south County Dublin killed 10 travellers including a young pregnant mother.

In January 2019, the Dublin Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of death by misadventure in the case of the 10 tragic deaths.

The court heard that the Carrickmines site was exempt from fire and planning regulations as it was an emergency temporary site – although it had existed for eight years.

The total number of Travellers is around 31,000, Tuesday’s report said.

ECRI recommended that the authorities provided funding to reinstate the Traveller Movement Independent Law Centre or establish a similar body to provide a legal advice and advocacy service for Travellers and Roma.

The ECRI highlighted positive developments including the formal recognition of Travellers as an indigenous ethnic group, the legalisation of same-sex marriage and a new law allowing transgender people to officially change their name and gender through self-determination.

PA

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