Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD today urged the Taoiseach to directly intervene in the Traveller issue and to “establish as a matter of urgency a state-wide forum involving Travellers, political parties, Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and media organisations to make recommendations on how this major issue of inequality facing our society can be addressed.”
The Sinn Féin leader attended the funerals in Bray of Willie Lynch and Tara Gilbert, of their children Kelsy, Jodie, and their unborn baby, and Jimmy Lynch; all victims of the fire that killed ten citizens at a Travellers halting site at in Carrickmines.
Speaking during Leaders Questions in the Dáil the Sinn Féin leader said:
“Widespread expressions of sympathy following this tragedy, provided hope that the treatment of Travellers, not just in terms of housing, could begin to be addressed in a serious way.
Unfortunately that hope has been dented by the familiar, negative attitudes as attempts are made to re-house the families of the Carrickmines victims.
This underlines the need for a fundamental review of the treatment of Travellers in Irish society. This must be Government led.
In the last seven years funding for Traveller accommodation has been cut by 93%. 1,536 families are in overcrowded or unsafe conditions. Many Travellers have no access to basic facilities such as sanitation, water and electricity. Travellers fare badly in all key indicators of disadvantage including employment, poverty, health, infant mortality, life expectancy and education.
At the root of all these problems are the levels of prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion experienced by these citizens.
Public representatives of political parties in this chamber actively campaign against the housing of Traveller families in their constituencies.
I have raised this particular issue with the Taoiseach on previous occasions where representatives of Fine Gael were involved.
I would urge the government to establish a state-level forum as a matter of urgency involving Travellers, political parties, Government, local authorities, health and education sectors and media organisations to make recommendations on how this major issue of inequality facing our society can be addressed.”
Concluding his remarks the Louth TD expressed his concern that the families bereaved as a consequence of the Carrickmines fire will still at the end of this week and after the funeral have occurred will still be homeless.
Teachta Adams said:
“These people are treated in a shameful way; babies on the side of the road; no toilet facilities; no water; no beds; no prospects, no hope.
That’s how they are treated and while it’s good that the flag is flying at half-mast today this week the Connors family will bury their loved ones, Thomas and Sylvia and their children Jim, Christy and Mary, at the end of this week. They still have nowhere to live. The masses will be on Thursday; the burials on Friday but these families will still be homeless.
Our society cannot be defined by the treatment of these citizens.
The talks with residents at Rockville Drive continue without resolution ten days after the fire. It is time for a government intervention.
These families will only start to pick up the pieces when the funerals are finished and they have still nowhere to go to heal themselves to mourn their loved ones and to rebuild their lives.
The April 2014 report on Traveller Ethnicity by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality made several recommendations, which have still not been acted upon 18 months later. So I urge the Taoiseach to intervene on this issue.
Some good can come out of these ten dreadful deaths but only if the government acts.”