Travellers still live in ‘substandard’ conditions, says new report

Mary Mongan and Annemarie McDonagh at the Traveller Homes Now Progress report launch in The View, Aras na Mac Leinn, NUI Galway.

Mary Mongan and Annemarie McDonagh at the Traveller Homes Now Progress report launch in The View, Aras na Mac Leinn, NUI Galway.

A new report, just published, says members of the Galway Traveller community continue to live in “deplorable” and “substandard” conditions.

The Traveller Homes Now monitoring and progress report, which was launched at NUI Galway on Tuesday highlights a continued lack of action on the delivery of Traveller accommodation.

The report outlined that this group continue to live in deplorable conditions and emphasises that their right to adequate accommodation is denied.

Overcrowding, structural issues, rat infestations, damp and mould, inadequate sanitation and access to basic facilities are the main issues affecting Travellers.

The findings claim local authorities are in breach of their obligations under international human rights and national standards for adequate accommodation. While there are varying degrees of progress in the city and county, some of the worst cases are found in Galway city.

“What our monitoring and progress report shows clearly is that, despite our careful documentation of conditions and our identification of what could be considered reasonable steps to improve the situation, almost nothing has progressed,” said Bridget Kelly, Galway Traveller Movement.

“In fact, in many cases, things have got worse. The lack of urgency to remedy or redress the substandard conditions on Traveller halting sites and group housing schemes in Galway city and county is unacceptable. The lack of substantive progress is far too slow. Some families are living in the same dire conditions for decades and have expressed feelings of hopelessness. They have little confidence that there will be any meaningful changes in their living conditions now or in the future, she added.

Annemarie Roche of Galway Traveller Movement stated that Galway Travellers are demanding quality, culturally appropriate accommodation. “They are challenging the substandard conditions the community are living in across Galway. Galway Traveller Movement is facilitating the Traveller Homes Now campaign to support the community in their fight for a home, their fight for their cultural rights to be respected, their fight to make sure future generations will not have to live in these same conditions.”

Residents of halting sites and group housing schemes across Galway city and county identified benchmarks for change last year. Peer researchers recorded if progress had been made in meeting these standards and also recorded residents’ advocacy efforts and the respective council’s responses between July 2018 and May 2019.

Members of the Traveller community collected data for this second monitoring and progress report between January and May 2019. It assesses the compliance of the Irish State and local authorities on their obligations as set down in domestic policy and law and under the UN Convention for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The findings highlight ongoing discrimination experienced by the Traveller community in the area of accommodation.

This latest report is a follow up to the First Monitoring Report July 2018 which gathered baseline data on the standard of Traveller specific accommodation in Galway and highlighted the substandard conditions across the city and county. A Traveller peer-led survey it was carried out by members of the Traveller community and covered 18 halting sites and group housing schemes in Galway city and county.

A 2018 report by IHREC and ESRI found that members of the Traveller community are most at risk of being homeless while also experiencing the highest levels of discrimination. They are almost 10 times as likely to report discrimination in access to housing. The quality of accommodation was also highlighted as an issue with 56 per cent of Travellers experiencing over-crowding compared to just nine per cent of the non-Traveller Community. More than one in three Travellers reported living in “very unhealthy” and “very unsafe” homes.

The Irish State is still in violation of the Council of Europe’s revised European Social Charter on the following grounds:

• provision of accommodation for Travellers remains insufficient

• many Traveller sites are in an inadequate condition

• Travellers continue to be evicted without the necessary safeguards.

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