Fire Safety Findings Not Surprising But Lamentable

Findings of local authority Traveller accommodation fire safety audits are unsurprising but lamentable, says Pavee Point Traveller & Roma Centre as more and more local authorities make public their Traveller fire safety audits as a result of requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

These audits were carried out as part of the Government’s ‘Programme to Review and Enhance Fire Safety in Local Authority Provided Traveller Accommodation’ which Pavee Point welcomed in the in the wake of the tragic deaths of 10 Travellers in a fire on a local authority halting site in Carrickmines in October 2015.

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A national report on this programme is due out this year but meanwhile reports from individual local authorities are pointing up issues of overcrowding on Traveller sites, lack of fire-fighting equipment and information and sub-standard electrical and heating connections.

In a report from County Leitrim, Travellers were forced to sleep in the wash house in a halting site bay – as they had no caravan.  In Kerry it was found there were no fire escape plans for the four halting sites in that county.

Sub-Standard Conditions

‘These are issues that we have been highlighting and campaigning on for many years, “ says Ronnie Fay, Co Director of Pavee Point.  ‘And many Travellers have been highlighting sub-standard living conditions with their local authority on an individual basis for a long time – to little or no avail.”

“Cuts and lack of political will in the provision of Traveller specific accommodation means that Travellers have been forced into dire overcrowding situations where electrical connections are shared and heating provision is rudimentary.

“We estimate that there are 5,500 Traveller in need of proper accommodation and would ask local authorities if they have included Travellers living on the roadside as part of their audits –  as they are in a particularly vulnerable situation.”

Remedial Works Necessary

“It’s important that at this stage that local authority remedial works are carried out in an effective manner and that Traveller organisations, who are well placed in this context, are engaged to raise awareness on how to prevent and combat fire.

“We have already been working with the Department of Environment on fire safety training and in the publication of a Traveller specific leaflet and poster.

Ban on Evictions

“Under no circumstances should fire safety be used as a reason for evicting Travellers from halting sites into even more vulnerable situations on the side of the road,” said Ms. Fay who has already called for a ban on Traveller evictions.

The Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness also recommended  a ban on Traveller evictions until adequate Traveller accommodation can be provided.

Meanwhile , the Housing Agency as part of ‘Rebuilding Ireland’ promises to identify the challenges that need to be addressed to bring about future progress in providing Traveller specific accommodation in line with health and safety standards. We also await a review of funding for Traveller specific accommodation to be part of the Housing Agency initiative.

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Further information:

Opening Statement by Ronnie Fay to Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness 5th May 2016

Full Presentation to Oireachtas Committee on Housing and Homelessness 5th May 2016