25 Bealtaine 2017
Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said that Ireland needs a cultural change of attitude towards Travellers and Travellers’ Rights.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking at the launch of the Travellers of North Cork (TNC) Accommodation Rights Charter in UCC on Wednesday,
The charter sets out a series of steps local and national government must take in order to ensure accommodation rights for Travellers.
“This is an equality issue and all this charter is demanding are the very basic rights that the rest of us take for granted,” she said.
“It is an indictment of us as a people that in 2017 there are fellow countrymen and women of ours living in the most appalling conditions.
“I have been on halting sites where children have had to crawl in and out of the windows of dilapidated caravans to sleep, where young mothers were opting to sleep with their newborns in their cars rather than in the houses they were offered by local authorities because of the dangerous state they were in.
“In Carrickmines in 2015 we saw the tragedy that can unfold when people are forced to live in unsafe conditions.
“We would not allow any other group of people to become so marginalised from society and while efforts such as this charter and Traveller Ethnicity are important steps, what is needed is a cultural change of attitude from all of us.
“Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin challenged the government on this issue last year when he put in a PQ to the Dáil which revealed that just 30% of funding available for Traveller accommodation had been drawn down by local councils,” she said.
“Earlier this month when it was further revealed that eight councils had drawn down none of the funding available we called on the Housing Minister to intervene directly and demand that councils use their allocated funding.
“There is no point in the Minister just increasing the Budget without ensuring that there is a strict process in place to ensure that Traveller accommodation is provided by all local authorities.
“Like most issues this does not stop at the border.
“We have called for the establishment of a national forum, across the island of Ireland, involving Travellers and the settled community, including representatives of all political parties, of government, local authorities, health and education sectors and representatives of media organisations to address Traveller issues.
“I have been hugely impressed by the presentations, the determination and the passion on display here today. Power comes from within communities and you harness that power by organising. You have done that here today and I would encourage you to do it right across the country to claim and safeguard your rights and Sinn Féin will stand by you. Equality cannot be selective.”