Travellers want housing action in Laois to prevent another fire tragedy

Laois Travellers Action Group say more than 30 families in Laois did not have proper places to live

Travellers want housing action in Laois to prevent another fire tragedy
By Conor Ganly & Lynda Kiernan

The Travelling community in Laois have called for action to provide enough safe housing to meet the needs of Traveller familes in the county.

The Laois Traveller Action Group (LTAG) made the call on foot of a survey that showed that 30 Traveller families in Laois do not have an appropriate place to live.

They also made the statement against the back drop of the first anniversary of the Carrickmines halting site fire.

Travellers in Laois held a vigil last Monday, October 10 in memory of the victims of tragedy in Carrickmines.

In the early hours of October 10 2015 a fire broke out at a halting site in Carrickmines in south county Dublin. Ten Travellers lost their lives: Tara Gilbert (27, pregnant) and her partner Jimmy Lynch (25), their daughters Jodie (9) and Kelsey (4) and Willy Lynch (39); Thomas Connors and his wife Sylvia (both 27) and their children Jimmy (5), Christy (2) and Mary (five months).

“What followed the horrible events in Carrickmines reflected existing racism and discrimination against Travellers in Ireland today. Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council offered a site to accommodate the fire survivors but local residents objected to plans,” said a statement from the Laois Travellers Action Group.

“Their deaths were avoidable and should not have happened. Their deaths were a direct consequence of substandard and overcrowded accommodation conditions. A year after the Carrickmines tragedy in Ireland there are 534 families living in unofficial, unrecognised and unserved accommodation.” said the statement from Laois Travellers

Laois Traveller Action Group said they surveyed of accommodation difficulties in Laois in January 2016.

“It identified 30 Traveller families in Laois with no access to accommodation. 10 of these families were sharing accommodation with relations, 14 were living in caravans parked in unofficial sites and 6 families were at the verge of being evicted by their landlords without having found alternative private accommodation.

“A total of 65 children were affected by these situations.

“This level of difficulty in availing accommodation has continued throughout the year. It has no precedent in Laois.

“It is happening in the context of a national crisis in accommodation and in addition to a lack of Traveller Specific accommodation despite the local authority’s recognition of its demand and need.” said the statement.

The group say Travellers have very limited access to “culturally appropriate accommodation, and to private rented accommodation due to discrimination”.

“ This is perpetuating an accommodation crisis that continues making Traveller families vulnerable to more tragedies.

“Fire safety initiatives are to be put in place but these will become insufficient if they are not implemented alongside a comprehensive and resourced accommodation programme to meet present and future accommodation needs,” said the statement.

Laois County Council reported last month that work has started with the LTAG and Laois Fire and Rescue Services to establish a Fire Steerin ggroup for Travellers.

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