Flynn says National Traveller Accommodation Authority is needed

A Donegal based senator says a new national authority needed to address Traveller accommodation, after it emerged a number of local authorities are not drawing down funds for Traveller accommodation provision.

Senator Flynn says if something is still not working, year after year, decade after decade, then a new way must be tried.

It was reported this week that the Department of Housing allocated a total of €18 million for Traveller accommodation this year, with €6.2 million drawn down. Seven local authorities have not yet drawn down any funding.

Donegal County Council is not among that seven, and records show that between 2017 and 2021, the council was allocated just over €431,000, and drew down almost €403,000.

Senator Eileen Flynn says more than 1,000 Traveller households live in unsafe, unsanitary or overcrowded conditions, an indication that what is needed is strong oversight and accountability.

Senator Flynn chaired the Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community, which has called for the establishment of a National Traveller Accommodation Authority.

She believes this body should also have input into the Traveller accommodation programme developed by each local authority.

Statement in full –

Senator Flynn says new national authority needed to address Traveller accommodation

Independent Senator Eileen Flynn said the ongoing failure of local authorities to draw down funds for Traveller accommodation again shows the need for a National Traveller Accommodation Authority.

Senator Flynn said: “If something is still not working, year after year, decade after decade, we’re going to have to try a new way. The recommendations for change are there.”

It was reported this week that the Department of Housing said a total of €18 million was allocated for Traveller accommodation this year, with €6.2 million drawn down. A number of councils have drawn down significant amounts, but seven local authorities have not yet drawn down any funding.

At the same time, figures this week showed more than 1,000 Traveller households live in unsafe, unsanitary or overcrowded conditions.

Senator Flynn said: “Of course this is disappointing, but it can no longer come as a shock. We know local authorities keep failing our community when it comes to accommodation. What we need is strong oversight and accountability.

“Not even half of the funding was drawn down, which would be bad enough. It’s an insult. What I think is very sad is that people are not one bit surprised.

“In our final report, the Joint Committee on Key Issues Affecting the Traveller Community called for establishment of a National Traveller Accommodation Authority to oversee the development and implementation of Traveller accommodation policy. We need to see movement on this.” Senator Flynn chaired the committee.

The senator said: “The authority should also have input into the Traveller accommodation programme developed by each local authority. We need to see accountability for these decisions.” The Expert Group on Traveller Accommodation in 2019 also recommended establishment of the authority.

The committee report cited a sustained pattern of local authorities underspending allocated funding for Traveller-specific accommodation.

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Peter Burke, said he believed the full allocation would be drawn down by the end of the year. Senator Flynn questioned how the funds would be used.

Senator Flynn said: “Will it be sustainable? Will it be future-proofed? I believe, based on my experience with Traveller consultative committees and local authorities, that the majority of the funds drawn down would have been for maintenance and waste management, not for new accommodation.”

The senator repeated her call for the report recommendations to be implemented.

Senator Flynn said: “When I talk about the need for political will, I want to say that there’s great cross-party support in the committee and we have the support of the Ceann Comhairle – the committee works very well. There are politicians who genuinely want to see and be part of a better future for our community.

“We have to make sure that political will is there across the decision-makers, the Department of Housing and the local authorities,” she said.

The senator also said it is important to ensure that recognition of Travellers ethnic identity “has meaning and a footing that allows us to hold the State to account for the lack of implementation”.

Senator Flynn said: “We have to make sure that it means something and I am working with my Civil Engagement Group colleagues to see how we can do that. Because I think that’s very important, that ability to hold the State to account, around health inequalities, accommodation inequalities, and education.”

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