Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre welcomes today’s announcement by the Department of Housing that directors of housing in local authorities are being asked to take measures that acknowledge the particular challenges that the Traveller community face in staying safe from Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Government willingness to respond to the particular needs of Travellers is encouraging at this time,” said Martin Collins, Co Director, Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre,  “It is important for Travellers to know they are being included in Government plans to stay safe.

“And we call on all local authorities to show leadership now when it is urgently needed. There should be a moratorium on all evictions during this time of crisis”

A circular issued by the Department of Housing today asks local authorities to make arrangements to make Traveller sites safer. Government has acknowledged the overcrowded conditions and challenges to self-isolate where the need arises. Finance is to be made available to allow for essential services such as water and toilets. Accommodation may be made available to enable self-isolation and there is a need to ensure clear access for emergency services to Travellers sites, the circular states.

“Pavee Point has been engaging with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Housing who we feel have been listening to our concerns and we hope that, together, we can move forward and help limit the impact of the virus within the Traveller community”

The particular challenges faced by many Travellers include-

– Already higher levels of chronic disease compared to the majority population making the Traveller community more vulnerable to COVID-19 (All Ireland Traveller Health Study – https://www.paveepoint.ie/resources/our-geels-all-ireland-traveller-health-study/)

– Accessing water and facilitating self-isolation for the approximate 3,132*Travellers still forced to live on the side of the road and others living in poor conditions on local authority halting sites

– The difficulties of self-isolation in overcrowded conditions** faced by approximately 5,000 Travellers who have been forced to double up on sites

“As more Travellers test positive with COVID-19 these challenges will increase,” said Mr. Collins “And the risk is Irish Travellers will suffer the impacts of COVID-19 disproportionately as a result of many years of neglect, marginalisation and exclusion. 

“Pavee Point will be doing all we can to support Traveller organisations and Traveller Primary Health Care Projects and Traveller Health Units around the country to get relevant information out to the community in a timely fashion.

“We will continue to raise issues of concern with the Health Service Executive and the Department of Housing and to highlight the important role local authorities have in this situation.”

Photograph by Derek Speirs.