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Housing crisis Changes to Traveller accommodation process ahead as half of 2020 budget not spent

Some €69million of money allocated to Traveller accommodation has been left unspent since the year 2000, says Traveller rights activist

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Minister for Housing, Darragh O'Brien TD (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Minister for Housing, Darragh O'Brien TD (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Minister for Housing, Darragh O'Brien TD (Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins)

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has announced the public accommodation process for the travelling community will be changed in 2021.

This comes after a survey on the living conditions of Travellers in Ireland was released today, which highlights that while the Travelling community only makes up 0.7pc of the population, it makes up 15pc of overall the homeless population.

Currently, local authorities are in charge of allocating Traveller accommodation, however, Martin Collins, Co-director of Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, told RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland that they are “incapable” of doing the job.

He also said that half of the money allocated for Traveller housing was not used this year, something that the Housing Minister has taken on board and admitted isn’t isolated to 2020 but has been an issue for a number of years.

"€69million has been left unspent since the year 2000, that is nothing short of shameful that local authorities are not spending their allocated budget to meet the accommodation needs of Travellers,” he said.

"And quite frankly they say the definition of madness is trying the same thing twice and expecting a different result.

“We have been taking the same approach for the last 20 years and the evidence is overwhelming.

“We need to think outside the box and we need a new approach, this power needs to be taken away from the local authorities, they are both unwilling and incapable of providing the accommodation needs of Travellers.”

Minister O’Brien said he “respectfully” disagrees that all powers should be taken away from local authorities, but agreed with Mr Collins that there needs to be a change and said this will be coming in 2021.

"I want the allocation of money for Traveller accommodation to remain open during the course of the year as opposed to just setting targets for each local authorities,” he explained.

"And for some of them that don’t deliver that it would be an open call where local authorities would come in and we would manage the Traveller accommodation process directly with them.

"Some local authorities regularly underperform and my department and I want to be assured that that trend is reversed.”

When asked why some local authorities haven’t been spending all the money allocated to Traveller accommodation, the Minister attributed it to “various reasons” including objections and planning reasons.

"I recognise a problem, there's no question that there is a problem,” he added.

"If you look at some of the really poor and desperate quality of accommodation that some of our Travelling community are living in that needs to be reversed and we are anxious to do that.”

The survey released today looks at the living conditions of Travellers and Roma people in Ireland and it was launched by Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman along with the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Irish Human Rights Equality Commission and the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre.

It revealed that close to half or 46pc of respondents from non-Traveller or Roma backgrounds said they would feel “uncomfortable with Roma and Travellers as neighbours.”

It also outlined that Ireland has one of the highest rates of unemployment amongst Travellers and Roma with just 15pc of the people from these communities employed.

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