Sinn Féin deputy Gerry Adams organised a briefing in Leinster House last week for members of the Oireachtas by members of the Traveller community in Woodland Park who were evicted two weeks ago by Louth County Council.
“I asked the minister to meet to discuss solutions to Traveller issues in Louth following the recent evictions by Louth County Council,” deputy Adams said. “In his response to my request the minister’s private secretary claims that the minister has no “role in operational matters and the evictions at Woodlands” and places the onus solely onto Louth County Council.
“This is unacceptable. The minister has a responsibility to ensure that there are structures and supports in place to assist Louth County Council to provide Traveller accommodation. This includes providing funding.
“The council has failed to do this and the minister refuses to discuss it. I have encouraged the council to develop the Woodlands Park site as an emergency halting site.
This will provide a temporary solution and resolve the crisis until long term solutions are created.
“Minister Kelly also has responsibility for local government, which includes ensuring that councils are fulfilling their responsibilities.
“I believe that the Dundalk Traveller families have been treated shamefully by the council and the minister’s refusal compounds this,” deputy Adams said.
Louth County Council said that Woodland Park had been operated as a serviced halting site by the council until 2008, when it closed due to a lack of interest among the Traveller community in utilising the site.
Since April 2015, approximately 20 families moved onto the disused site. Louth County Council had sought the relocation of the families because of concerns over site safety, including poor sanitation. Direct engagement between the families on the site and the Council had been ongoing and notice to vacate our lands at Woodland Park was served on all occupants of the site last July.
Last October the council’s Chief Fire Officer undertook an inspection of the site and it was found to be unsafe and unfit for occupancy, which resulted in the decision to seek the assistance of the gardaí to help to remove the occupants. The council said that in developing the statutory Traveller Accommodation Programme 2014-2018, the Traveller community was consulted and there was little interest expressed in halting site accommodation. at this time. The programme addresses the accommodation needs of all those identified through a combination of social and group housing schemes and it should be noted that the 2015 target in this regard was exceeded.