Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams this evening hosted a briefing in Leinster House for members of the Oireachtas by members of the Traveller community in Woodland Park who were evicted two weeks ago by Louth County Council.
Teachta Adams said:
“I asked the Minister to meet to discuss solutions to Traveller issues in Louth following the recent evictions by Louth County Council.
In his response to my request the Minister’s Private Secretary claims that the Minister has no ‘role in operational matters and the evictions at Woodlands’ and places the onus solely onto Louth County Council.
This is unacceptable. The Minister has a responsibility to ensure that there are structures and supports in place to assist Louth County Council to provide Traveller accommodation. This includes providing funding.
The Council has failed to do this and the Minister refuses to discuss it.
I have encouraged the Council to develop the Woodlands Park site as an emergency halting site.
This will provide a temporary solution and resolve the crisis until long term solutions are created.
Minister Kelly also has responsibility for Local government, which includes ensuring that Councils are fulfilling their responsibilities.
I believe that the Dundalk Traveller families have been treated shamefully by the Council and the Minister’s refusal compounds this.”
Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has called on other constituency TDs and Seanadóiri in Louth to “lobby the Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly to urgently intervene in the ongoing eviction crisis created by the decision of Louth County Council last week to evict 22 families from the Woodland Park halting site.
I am also concerned that 15 of the 22 families who were evicted from the Woodland Park site are now being threatened with eviction from a carpark beside the KFC.”
Teachta Adams said:
“Louth County Council has a legal obligation to accommodate homeless families. There is an unprecedented housing crisis in Louth. Five thousand people on the waiting list. It is bizarre that the council action has made even more citizens homeless.
No social or affordable housing was built by the Council in 2015. The government did not give any funds but there is available funding for Traveller accommodation.
The solution to this problem is to draw down this funding to refurbish Woodland Park site and other sites if necessary.
The other TDs and Senators have been silent on this issue. I am appealing to them to call for Minister Alan Kelly to intervene urgently.
There is also a whispering campaign against the Travellers and Sinn Féin and me in particular. I am told this is coming from Labour and Fine Gael though I have no proof of this. They are saying that Travellers are trying to jump the housing queue and that I support this.
I am advocating and my offices in Dundalk and Drogheda and local Sinn Fein councillors are advocating every day for homeless people.
The Travellers don’t want rented accommodation. They are not looking to jump any waiting list. They are no threat to other homeless people. The Travellers want the halting site developed and in time they want accommodation in keeping with their culture. This will not cost the rate payers of Louth.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the Minister for Social Protection to “ensure that her department deal sympathetically and efficiently with the Traveller families who have been evicted from Woodland Park halting site in Dundalk”.
Teachta Adams said:
“The eviction of the 23 families and the 20 children is a cause of serious concern.
The last five families on the Woodland Park site are being evicted today and tomorrow morning
Some have had to sell their mobile homes for small amounts of money because of the Council’s eviction process. This has added to the trauma for some.
Today I understand that some of those evicted from the site have had their social welfare payments stopped because they are no longer resident at the addresses they had given to the Social Welfare department. So families have suffered the indignity and trauma of eviction by the council and the state has now stopped their welfare payments.
The treatment of the Woodland Park families in this centenary year of the Proclamation has been deplorable.”
Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams today raised with the Taoiseach in the Dáil the decision by Louth County Council to evict 17 families, including at least 20 children, some of them babies, and two pregnant women, from the travelling community from the halting site at Woodland Park Dundalk.
The Louth TD said: “The meetings between the Travellers from the Woodland Park site and the Council have ended tonight without a conclusion. The families are very dissatisfied with the approach of the council. The only alternative being proposed by the Council is private rented accommodation which many of the families are unhappy with. This is a direct attack on the rights and ethnicity of Traveller families. There is a housing crisis in Louth. 5,000 people are on the housing list. The eviction of these families is adding to this crisis.”
Teachta Adams said:
“Louth County Council last Friday began a process of evicting Traveller families from a halting site at Woodland Park in Dundalk. This was done without consultation with councillors.
The basis on which these evictions have been carried out is that a fire safety inspection had raised serious concerns about safety on the site.
However, the Programme to Review Fire Safety in Traveller Accommodation that was published by government on December 2nd 2015, following the Carrickmines tragedy, is very clear on this issue.
It makes it clear that “nothing in this fire safety review process is intended to be used to address the broader Traveller accommodation issues in a negative way.”
In other words it was not a green light to evict Travellers from halting sites which do not meet fire safety standards. But this is exactly what Louth County Council is doing.
More evictions are planned for tomorrow. The common sense and most cost efficient resolution to this issue is to urgently bring the halting site up to health and safety standards so that the families can stay in their homes.
I have asked the Taoiseach to instruct the Minister for the Environment to ensure that Louth County Council abides by the recommendations of December’s fire safety review. And to urge Minister Kelly to use his authority as Minister for Local government to prevent any further evictions.
Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams today went to the offices of Louth County Council in Dundalk to meet with members of the travelling community who have been evicted from their homes at Woodland Park.
Speaking from Dundalk Gerry Adams said,
“This matter has been handled disgracefully. It is clearly unfair and unjust to evict up to 70 people from their homes with no plan in place for where they might go.
“I have spoken to the people here today and they have informed me that 20 children and a number of pregnant women have been made homeless on the coldest weekend of the winter.
“A number of women have told me that they slept in their cars since Friday’s eviction. This is simply not good enough.
“To the best of my knowledge local councillors were not informed of this decision in advance and had no opportunity to object to this eviction.
“I have requested the Chief Executive of Louth County Council to provide me with information on the options which were considered prior to this mass eviction. This information has not been forthcoming to date.
“The Government has engineered a housing crisis in Louth and across the State. 5000 people are currently on the waiting list for social housing in County Louth and in 2015 the local authority built no social housing whatsoever.
“However there is funding available for traveller accommodation programmes and I have written to the Chief Executive of Louth County Council to ask that this is urgently drawn down in order to fulfil the statutory obligation to fully refurbish and properly maintain Woodland Park.
“The evicted families all want to remain there and indeed I am aware of even greater demand for halting site accommodation among the travelling people of Dundalk.
“The refurbishment of Woodland Park in adherence with health and safety legislation is not only the decent thing to do it is the least costly alternative.
“I intend to raise this issue with the Environment Minister and local Sinn Féin representatives will be attending meetings with Council officials tomorrow in an effort to resolve this impass.”