A Galway county councillor has called on Galway Traveller Movement (GTM ) to apologise after the organisation accused the local authority of “institutional racism”.
Fianna Fáil councillor Donagh Mark Killilea described the comments from GTM on the Galway City Council’s plan to improve Traveller accommodation standards as “absolutely deplorable”.
Cllr Killilea said; “I’m not sure how other people feel [in the chamber], I took great exception to GTM in the way they branded us racists. I took this very personally. [Director of housing] Michael Owens has very worked hard. I take grave offence being called a racist. I am not racist and I don’t believe anyone in this chamber is racist.
“I think GTM should look to its own community in assisting the Traveller community in getting housing solutions. I call for an apology from GTM for casting aspersions [on this council].”
Fine Gael councillor Pete Roche echoed Cllr Killilea’s sentiments saying the comments were “downright insulting” to the local authority and “grossly annoying”.
The councillors’ comments come after GTM published its latest report, Traveller Homes Now, on Traveller accommodation in Galway where Bridget Kelly, spokesperson of the group, said there has been a decades-long failure to provide culturally appropriate accommodation.
She also claimed this was designed to wear people down and to force Travellers to assimilate by accepting houses out of desperation.
Responding to councillors’ concerns, director of housing Michael Owens said GTM’s were “disappointing”. He said; “I join [council] members in rejecting comments by GTM. It is disappointing to hear the comments and does not reflect the relationship between the local authority and the organisation. Some of the commentary associated with the report was inaccurate. We have met and exceeded our Traveller accommodation targets.
“The development of the [Traveller accommodation programme] document was done with [GTM]. It is unfortunate one of the parties involved in the programme has described the process as flawed.”
Mr Owens also revealed the local authority’s current investment in providing solutions to Traveller accommodation needs over the next year will be up to €4 million.