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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 22 February, 2019
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'Damp, mould, swarms of flies and rodent infestation': Galway travellers on state of their accommodation

The issues are detailed in a new report published by the Galway Traveller Movement today.

A REPORT BY Travellers into their accommodation in Galway city and county halting sites and group housing schemes has found “extremely poor, unsafe and unhealthy” conditions, that the participants say violate “fundamental human rights standards”.

The qualitative Traveller peer-led survey (which took place between February and May 2018) is part of the first monitoring report completed by the Galway Traveller community in collaboration with the Galway Traveller Movement.

It follows the launch of the campaign #TravellerHomesNow at an accommodation inquiry which took place in November 2018.

The community say they plan to monitor progress over the coming 18 months. They will also present each report to councillors and officials.

Conducted by members of the local traveller community through site visits and a questionnaire given to families, it looked at the state of 18 Traveller sites and group housing schemes in Galway city and county.

The conditions reported included “overcrowding and lack of privacy, damp, cold, mould, unreliable water supply, and rat and fly infestation”.

Joanna Donnelly, a member of the travelling community in Galway, told TheJournal.ie that “some disgraceful conditions” are highlighted in the report.

“There’s one site next to a dump,” she said. “During the hottest days of the heatwave there recently, people had to stay inside with their doors closed because the infestation of flies was unbelievable.

It’s not like we’re asking for swimming pools or tennis courts. We’re asking for lighting, for heating. We’re asking for safety. It’s not anything that’s unreasonable. People are paying rent to stay in these places.

Corcoran said that the report enabled her community “to be the experts and to present the issues and struggles they face on a day to day basis”.

The report states that Galway city and county councils are in breach of at least 12 basic standards for the provision of adequate accommodation, as set out by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

Issues

The report highlights the following issues:

  • Traveller families reported overcrowding
  • Traveller families reported serious structural faults and hazards with poor, irregular or no maintenance response
  • Traveller families reported poor sanitation and washing facilities
  • Traveller families reported poor and inadequate facilities for children and young people
  • Traveller families report being concerned about safety issues, barriers on sites and emergency access

The reports assessed the following sites and group housing schemes:

  • Beal na Srutha
  • Carrowbrowne Temporary, Headford Road
  • Carrowbrowne Transient Site, Headford Road
  • Circular Road Halting Site
  • Clos na Choile, Ballybane
  • Cul Trá, Salthill
  • Fana Glas
  • St Nicolas Park Group Housing
  • St Nicolas Halting site
  • Tuam Road

In Beal na Srutha, for example – a group housing scheme with six units which is home to seven adults and seven children – residents said that it was damp and cold, with no play area for children and no fire assembly point. They called for refurbishment of houses to deal with damp, maintenance and a new green or play space needed. They also asked for fire safety equipment.

At Carrowbrowne temporary site, there are 13 families living there: 25 adults and 36 children. Residents reported rat, mice and fly infestation, saying that rats have been found in sinks, showers and food presses. They said that pipes for sinks, showers and washing machines are constantly blocked up, as are toilets. They said that water and sewerage comes up over the ground and through the bays.

They called for poison and traps to be set and for the plumbing to be fixed, and for power lines to also be fixed.

Twenty three families live at the Carrowbrowne transient site. The families say they need permanent accommodation and not transient accommodation, and reported that the site was unsuitable for permanent accommodation. They also reported rat, mice and fly infestation, plumbing issues, and a need for space for children to play and do homework.

At Clos na Choile, there are five housing units. Residents reported flooding and water issues, damp and mould, sewerage blocking drains, and the heat not working. They called for regular structural maintenance.

At Cul Trá in Salthill, there are 16 families and 25 children. They reported serious overcrowding, no child facilities, poor or late maintenance of structural issues, and consultation with tenants needed to plan for adequate accommodation.

At Fana Glas, there are seven units (four occupied) and six adults and five children living in this group housing scheme. They reported damp, cold, and difficulty with cooking ranges, calling for structural and ongoing maintenance.

There are 16 adults and 22 children living at the permanent halting site on the Tuam Road. They said that the units are too inadequate for the families’ needs, that there is no privacy for adults or children and young people, and that cooking areas are too compact and close to the living area, which is dangerous for children. They called for extended and bigger units, and exits to be provided for emergencies.

Galway County Council

At the Galway County Council accommodation, issues included no street lighting, a need for maintenance, and redevelopment of sites such as Capira and Craughwell halting sites. At the Gort Brige housing scheme, residents called for timely rubbish collection to help tackle a rat infestation, and for street lighting to be erected.

At Sandymount in Killimor, residents reported cracks and holes in ceilings, some windows not opening, and poor ventilation.

The report states:

[Our survey] finds that what our community wants is #TravellerHomesNow that are safe, healthy, habitable, culturally appropriate and completely integrated within a modern, diverse and pluralist Irish society.

It says that if there are no good halting sites being provided for, no transient bays or if the halting sites are unsafe and unhealthy, Travellers may feel that the only choice they have is to settle in a house.

Priorities for change

The Galway Traveller Movement said that the priority benchmarks for change for the councils are to:

  • Provide regular, quality and timely maintenance for structural defects and damage that has resulted from maintenance neglect over years
  • Refurbish units and housing that are damp, wet, draughty and cold
  • Replace and redevelop accommodation facilities that are dangerous, unhealthy and unfit for purpose – in particular the sheds at Carrowbrowne
  • Provide intensive pest control on a regular basis
  • Provide additional Traveller appropriate accommodation to ease the burden of overcrowding and to reduce the risk of homelessness amongst the Traveller community
  • Provide facilities to allow children to play and learn and young people to study and develop.

Galway City and County Councils have been contacted for comment on the survey.

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