The issue of accommodation is undoubtedly one of the most critical and contentious issues facing Travellers at the present time. Adequate accommodation is essential and is widely recognised as a social right. For equality for any group to be achieved they must have access to economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights. Indeed barriers to accessing certain rights such as adequate accommodation will infringe on ones ability to access other rights. As the Committee to Monitor and Co-ordinate the Implementation of the Recommendations of the Task Force on the Travelling Community (DoJELR, 2000: 8-9) note ‘poor living conditions contribute greatly to a lower life expectancy for Travellers and a poor uptake of employment, health and education services’.
What this report shows is that even in permanent halting sites, Travellers are living without basic facilities. There are examples of halting sites with good facilities yet factors such as a poor maintenance policy and a lack of provision of accommodation in an area leading to overcrowding in existing accommodation can cause problems to arise. Travellers constitute a very small minority in Ireland and the provision of adequate accommodation should not be such a challenge to the political and administrative system. However, without the political will to implement legislation it is proving to be very challenging. The purpose of working together with residents, the ITM, other Traveller groups, local elected representatives, local community groups, the Gardai and local statutory bodies is to place these issues firmly on the political agenda and to use local support so that Traveller’s voices are heard.
“I think it is disgraceful that the electricity will go back on and not even last an hour. The electricity supply needs to be fixed. I feel sorry for the no hot water children that has to get up for school with no heating, and a cold breakfast. I need my fridge to keep my daughters medication at the right temperature. She needs it for her growth and can’t take it when the electricity goes. It is not fair that she has to suffer.” Bridget McDonagh
“I have a breathing machine that I have to use every night. I can’t go asleep without it because no oxygen will go to my brain or heart. When the electricity goes off I have to stay awake all night.” Ellie Stokes