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Council hits back at damning report from Children's Ombudsman on Cork halting site

The council said some of the findings were “unsatisfactory and unhelpful”.

File photo
File photo
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

A LOCAL AUTHORITY hit back at a damning report by the Ombudsman for Children which said the rights of Traveller children were being violated at an accommodation site in their area.

Cork City Council said matters were “nowhere near as simple as outlined” in a lengthy finding-by-finding rebuttal, which they submitted to the Department of Housing.

It also said the report on the Spring Lane site did not show a “complete understanding or appreciation of the complex problems and deep-rooted socio-economic issues” involved at the site.

The report by the Ombudsman for Children had detailed failure after failure to improve living conditions with children left in filthy, overcrowded, rat-infested, cold and damp living conditions.

However, a six-page letter sent to Minister Peter Burke by the council said that while an external observer view was useful, that they had great difficulty in accepting a number of its findings.

They said the needs of all those living at Spring Lane – and in particular children – had always been a priority of the council.

Refurbishment project

The council said that a finding in relation to delays in refurbishment of welfare units (with washing and toilet facilities) had merit but that it “can be explained” and that a refurbishment project was planned.

It also queried findings about waste management, saying an industrial sized skip was provided on the site and was serviced every week.

The letter said: “The council will examine whether alternative methods of refuse collection are possible on this site, with a view to reducing or eliminating illegal use of the service.”

The council later claimed that illegal commercial dumping was rife at the site and that council staff safety and security have been “issues of major concern”

On rodent infestations at the site, the local authority said that a pest control company had been in place since 2019 but the service had temporarily been suspended due to the pandemic but was back up and running.

“A level of cooperation with residents to ensure success in relation to these issues mentioned above is vital; this has not always been the case,” said the letter.

The council also said issues around the opening of a local passageway, which provided school access for children, was nowhere near “as simple as outlined”.

They said there were “serious community security fears” involved and that there was “very considerable resistance” from the neighbouring settled community to creation of a formal right of way.

The council also criticised findings around social housing support, which they said was “completely transparent and operates in a fully accountable manner”.

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Their letter said there had been several instances of social housing offers being refused and that even when one family moved on from Spring Lane, another family tended to “immediately move into the vacant bays”.

Cork City Council also defended their social housing system, which they said had been used widely across Europe and the U.K.

However, they agreed they would have the system “independently equality proofed” this autumn and would make any improvements needed.

The council were particularly critical of a finding that found their implementation of a Traveller accommodation plan had been discriminatory and unfair.

“It is the council’s view that this statement is an error, unsatisfactory and unhelpful,” said their letter.

It said they aimed to meet targets but various challenges including severe weather, “security events” and lengthy court proceedings had delayed work at Spring Lane.

The letter concluded by saying the council were confident they could deliver a satisfactory outcome, especially for the children present on the site “despite the serious challenges present”.

About the author:

Ken Foxe

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