Sinn Féin TD for Louth Gerry Adams has said that he welcomes the reopening to the Traveller community of the refurbished Woodland Park halting site in Dundalk.
Teachta Adams said,
“I hope that those families moving in to Woodland Park are happy there and I commend those who worked hard to ensure that the refurbishment was completed.
“The eviction of traveller families, including infants only days old, last January, took place on one of the coldest days of 2016.
“Many of the evictees had nowhere to go but the side of the road without any facilities or services. This should not have happened.
“I have liaised consistently with Louth County Council, the Department of Housing and the travelling families in the intervening period and, almost a year later, it is good to see that Woodland Park is again operational and available to the travelling community.
“During the week I raised the issue of formal recognition by the State of Traveller Ethnicity with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
“In his response, the Taoiseach outlined a pathway to recognition of Traveller Ethnicity.
“He stated that the issue was discussed with Minister for Equality David Stanton, that the four representative NGOs working on Traveller issues will come before the Committee in January; if issues can be addressed and agreement reached that there will be all-party support for ethnicity and that he expects to report to the Dáil at the end of January.
“There is no legislative or constitutional bar on the government recognising Traveller ethnicity immediately. We now need to see progress on this issue.”
Sinn Féin Louth Gerry Adams TD has welcomed “this week’s landmark judgement by the European Committee of Social Rights into the violation of Travellers rights by the government. The committee found that the government has failed to provide enough accommodation for Travellers, that many of the sites provided are in a poor condition and that legal safeguards for Travellers threatened with eviction are insufficient.
This judgement has implications for the treatment of the Travelling community in Louth and in particular the 23 families who were evicted at the start of the year by Louth County from the Woodland Park site.”
Teachta Adams said:
“In the last four months Traveller families in Dundalk have been subject to forcible eviction on two occasions and threats to evict on others. As a result of the action of Louth County Council Traveller families have been forced to squat on illegal sites in the Dundalk area. They are not alone. According to the ECSR report the number of families living in unsafe, unserviced and unauthorised sites has increased by 50% in the last two years.
“The publication of the ECSR judgement against the State is a damning one and cannot be ignored by the government or by other state bodies, including local authorities.
“I will be meeting the new Minister for Housing, Simon Coveney this week to find a solution to the issues in my own constituency, including the provision of an emergency halting site for Travellers displaced there, in keeping with the State’s obligations, and I intend to put the findings of the ECSR judgement to him so his Department begins to take seriously the consistent breaches of the human rights of the Travelling community by successive Irish governments.”
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 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.