There has been “no major improvement” in the “deplorable” living conditions of Travelers in the past three years, warns a hard-hitting statement from the Council of Europe.

The statement, released by the Council’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) on Thursday, said “little has been done to address structural shortcomings in identifying the accommodation needs of Travelers and to ensure greater responsibility in the use of Travellers”. housing fund.

This comes as Department of Housing figures show that only 18 new traveler accommodation bays were provided statewide last year, with 13 local authorities not providing new traveler accommodation or any. renovating.

The data, obtained by Sinn Féin housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin, shows just 70 traveler accommodation units, including five refurbished hospitality site bays, 10 refurbished group accommodation units and 16 mobiles provided as emergency pandemic measures were put in place last year. .

Among the 13 councils with no new traveler accommodation or renovations in 2021 were counties Cork, Kerry, Sligo and Wexford. No council recorded expenditure for fire safety or health and safety work.

The most recent figures, for 2019, show that 529 traveler families lived by the roadside, usually without basic facilities such as running water.

Racism and intolerance

ECRI’s statement follows a follow-up investigation into two of its priority recommendations – on traveler accommodation and on legislation against hate crimes and hate speech – in its 2019 follow-up report. The commission, which monitors racism and intolerance and measures to address them, publishes country reports approximately every five years.

In 2019, on accommodation for travellers, she noted: “Nothing has changed… since her last report [in 2013]. Despite adopting multi-year traveler accommodation schemes, the majority of local authorities have consistently failed to provide adequate and culturally appropriate accommodation to travellers.

She was then “shocked” by the level of under-spending by local authorities of Traveler accommodation budgets and “alarmed by the deplorable conditions in which Travelers lived”.

While in his latest report he is “satisfied” that all of the €14.5 million allocated to traveler accommodation in 2020 has been spent, he notes that most of it has been used for the needs of Covid-related emergencies, such as portable toilets, running water and extra caravans to reduce overcrowding “rather than meeting the long-standing accommodation needs of Travellers”.

Over two decades of reporting, the commission has intensified its calls for greater oversight of local authorities who do not provide accommodation to travellers. It noted the absence of “sanctions” in 2002 and called for measures “if necessary” to “improve” the supply of housing in 2007. In 2013, it recommended “binding measures for local authorities” and in 2019 suggested “dissuasive sanctions against local authorities for non-spending of allocated funds”.

No major improvement

In this latest statement, it notes: “None of the recommendations regarding increased national oversight of the provision of traveler accommodation have yet been implemented.

“Most importantly, there has been no major improvement in accommodation conditions for Travellers.”

The commission “strongly encourages the Irish authorities to step up their efforts to implement the recommendations set out in the 2019 Traveler Accommodation Expert Report and the recommendations of the Irish Human Rights and equality 2021 in this area”. They made far-reaching recommendations, including council sanctions, to increase traveler-specific accommodation.

With regard to hate crime and hate speech legislation, the commission notes “very encouraging steps”, including the drafting of the Criminal Justice (Hate Crime) Bill 2021, training of Garda on the issue and the creation of an online crime reporting system in July 2021. .