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Dublin: 7°C Monday 6 December 2021

Concern for Traveller children in Galway living in 'cold and damp conditions'

Community groups said one site was left without heat or water for 18 months.

Image: Shutterstock

TRAVELLER ADVOCATES HAVE expressed concern about the welfare of Traveller children in Galway, as they say many are living in cold and damp conditions this winter.

There are currently 322 Traveller children living on the 18 Traveller specific sites across Galway city and county, according to a Traveller community organisation based in the county.

Galway Traveller Movement said that while there have been improvement in conditions on some sites and in some group housing schemes over the past years, these changes have not been substantive. 

“The majority continue to live with cold, damp and overcrowding, often with substandard sanitation and cooking facilities,” they said.

“No sites or groups housing schemes have adequate green space and play facilities for children.”

An online discussion on the conditions in Galway today heard that one family with eight children is living in a one-room unit and there are more than 20 families currently waiting for culturally specific accommodation.

The Galway Traveller Accommodation Inquiry event today heard that the Covid-19 pandemic made many issues more difficult. 

“In Carrowbrowne, one of the city’s largest sites, children were left on the transient site for 18 months without heat and water throughout the height of the pandemic,” they said.

“While this situation was finally dealt with in June 2021, it has impacted in a lasting way on the mental health and wellbeing of children and their families.”

A recent investigation by Noteworthy and The Journal revealed issues such as “overflowing sewage” at the Carrowbrowne site in August this year. Maintenance logs from Galway City Council show this issue was reported three days later as “still ongoing”.

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The council official who logged the issue wrote:

No one called out to fix the problem. I was speaking to the families this morning and they are distraught.

The community organisations are calling for responsibility for Traveller accommodation to be overseen by an “independent, authoritative and adequately resourced national agency”, instead of local authorities. 

“Too many of our children are still living in cold and damp conditions, sometimes having to go to bed on damp mattresses because of water leaks and condensation,” said Anne Marie Stokes, a member of the Galway Traveller community and one of the speakers at the event today.

They may have to go out to a cold container to go the toilet in the middle of the night. Their outdoor play areas are either non-existent or could be infested with pests. They have to live in overcrowded conditions. And what’s most distressing is that they know it, they feel it, and they are anxious about it.

“We have raised these issues, and many more for years and years now – years when children have grown from being children to adults.

“Yet there no sense that anyone is listening or that there is any urgency shown by either local or national authorities with responsibility for the provision of Traveller specific accommodation. It’s like our children, and our community, don’t count.”

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